2-Year-Old Boy Dies After Contracting E. coli At San Diego County Fair Petting Zoo

'Our sympathies go out to the family of the child that died from this illness,' said a public health official.

a pair of young goats in a barn
distel2610 / Pixabay

'Our sympathies go out to the family of the child that died from this illness,' said a public health official.

A 2-year-old boy has died after contracting E. coli at a petting zoo, San Diego’s KNSD-TV reports. At least three other children are believed to have contracted the potentially-deadly bacterium as well.

The young boy, whose name was not released, had visited a petting zoo at the San Diego County Fair on June 24, and he died that same day. Three other children between the ages of 2 and 13 also contracted E. coli from animals at the fair, but none of them were sick enough to be hospitalized. They had been to the fair between June 8 and June 15.

It remains unclear, as of this writing, what animals the boy had been in contact with, or even which animal or animals may have been carrying the bacterium. However, in an abundance of caution, county officials have shut down the petting zoo as well as all other areas of the fair where the general public could have contact with animals.

Meanwhile, officials also inspected the fair’s food-serving facilities and found no evidence of food contaminated with the pathogen.

In a statement, San Diego County Fair CEO Tim Fennell said that he is “heartbroken” by the news of the boy’s death. But, though the animal exhibits have been shut down, the fair will continue.

“We are devastated by this news, but we are moving forward and taking any precaution, the fair will continue until the Fourth of July,” Fennell said.

Similarly, Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, a county public health officer, said (via Yahoo News) that it’s rare for someone to die from exposure to E. coli.

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“Our sympathies go out to the family of the child that died from this illness,” she said.

Escherichia coli, or simply E. coli, is a bacterium that’s found in the stomachs of both animals and humans, and indeed, you may even have some inside your own digestive system now. Most strains are harmless, but a few can cause sickness. The symptoms generally manifest a few days after contacting the bug and can include watery diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, and vomiting.

Most people who get sick with E. coli generally get better on their own. However, in small children, the elderly, and in people with compromised immune systems, the bacterium can be deadly.

Authorities say that the best way to prevent against E. coli is to make sure your meat is thoroughly cooked and to frequently wash your hands, particularly after having contact with animals.