DNA tests have shown that the same strain of E. coli that infected 22 people, most of which were children, who attended two other Florida fairs in March has been linked to an outbreak at a third central Florida fair that was held in February.
Health Secretary John Agwunobi said Thursday that at least one person is believed to have contracted the infection at the Florida State Fair in Tampa in mid-February.
The cases are confirmed to have been infected by a particular strain of the E. coli bacteria – O157:H7 – and some of them have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome – a potentially fatal follow-up disease that affects the kidneys.
While he said other causes haven’t been definitively ruled out, one company, Ag-Venture Farm Shows of Plant City, provided the animals for the petting zoos at all three, Agwunobi said.
“It’s increasingly clear to us that one of the few, if not the only, bridging event appears to be a very specific petting zoo – AgVenture,” Agwunobi said. “We have a very strong suspicion that there is an association with this petting zoo.”
Ag-Venture’s animals who were at the three fairs have been voluntarily quarantined while investigations continue.