There’ll be an emphasis on the three F’s – food, fun and frequent hand-washing – at local county fairs this week due to the recent E. coli outbreaks in Central Florida linked to animals in petting zoos. Victims had tested positive for E. coli, and others have developed a potentially life-threatening related kidney disease, hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure.
It appears that the number of victims is still growing, even though the incubation period for the disease is nearly over. Another 35 cases are under investigation. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said two more cases in Ohio and another in Georgia are likely related to those in Florida.
The outbreaks have prompted fair officials in Bradford and Clay counties to post prominent signs urging visitors to wash and sanitize theirs hands frequently, and have increased the number of places available to do so. The Florida Federation of Fairs has provided all of its members with a set of guidelines from the CDC that detail how to manage an animal-based event like a fair or petting zoo to reduce the risk of infections.
Fair officials have also sponsored a poster contest for 4-H and FFA members to raise public awareness about the need for good hygiene around animals.