A 2-year-old boy died and three others were sickened upon contracting the E. coli virus after coming into contact with farm animals at the San Diego County Fair, according to authorities.
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The child was hospitalized after visiting the county fair two weeks ago, and died Monday after complications stemming from the virus, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency confirmed on Friday. The other three children did not need medical attention.
“Our sympathies go out to the family of the child from this illness, said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D. MPH County public health officer, in a recent press release. “While most people recover from this illness without complications, 5 to 10 percent of people diagnosed with STEC develop the life-threatening kidney infection.”
The children visited the fair between the dates of June 8-15, and started showing symptoms of the virus between June 10-16. All four children were between the ages of 2 and 13, the agency reports.
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The health department is still in the process of conducting an investigation into the source of the E. coli, however “all children had a report of visiting the animal areas or the petting zoo, or had other animal contact at the San Diego Fair,” the agency said.
The fair, which was scheduled to run until Thursday, has since been closed to the public as authorities work to determine the exact source of the virus. The agency reports over one million people have visited the fair already.
Timothy Fennell, CEO of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and manager of the county fair, said they have followed all of the health department guidelines since learning of the virus outbreak. Fennell said it appears as if the children contracted the virus from the petting zoo, where they would have come into contact with potentially infected livestock animals.
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The fair will re-open and continue after health officials deem it safe, Fennell said during a Friday press conference, according to NBC News. He also emphasized that the virus was not contracted by contaminated food.
“No contamination has to do with food service or food at all. That’s been verified,” he said.
While foodborne contamination is the most typical way to contract E. coli, the Department of Environmental Health said that it inspected all food facilities visited by the children, none of which were found to be the source of the virus.