The Associated Press reports that epidemiologists have matched DNA from E. coli bacteria in six animals — two goats, two sheep and two cows — to the DNA in the bacteria contracted by the victims of a recent Central Florida outbreak, thereby definitively linking the outbreak to animals from petting zoos at three fairs.
The six animals were all from the same company, Ag-Venture Farm Shows, which had provided the animals for the petting zoos. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said Ag-Venture had cooperated fully with the investigation and was voluntarily quarantining the animals permanently. Officials said the farm company hadn’t broken any laws and no charges would be filed.
Florida Health Secretary John Agwunobi emphasized that there wasn’t any indication that animals at any other petting zoos were carrying the particular strain of E. coli linked to this outbreak.
Twenty-six people were confirmed infected with the E. coli infection, including 23 children, after contracting the bacteria at either the Central Florida Fair in Orlando, the Strawberry Festival in Plant City or the Florida State Fair in Tampa in February and March. More than 20 people were hospitalized.