With free parking and admission at just $3 for adults, folks left the Aug. 8-14 Northwestern Michigan Fair in Traverse City with a lot of good memories, except for the three who left with Shigatoxin-producing E. coli, or STEC.

The Grand Traverse County Health Department said those infected began experiencing symptoms like bloody diarrhea immediately after the 102-year-old fair wrapped up its run, from Aug. 15 to 17.

goats-icecream-featured.jpgMost likely the STEC involved is E. coli O157:H7.  It is the most common pathogenic strain of the bacterium.

The Northwestern Michigan Fair, which begins with a Barn Dance, is known for its extensive animal events and competition involving every kind of farm animal.  Up close horse, goat, rabbit, and other events make up the fair’s schedule.

“Considering the number of animals in close proximity to people at the venue, it seems likely that their infections were contracted (at the fair),” said Dr. Michael Collins, the county’s medical director.

He said officials might never know exactly which animals were the sources of infection.

Further north, the number of E. coli cases linked to the Russian pavilion at the recently ended Folklorama in Winnipeg is up to 26, up from the original 16 cases that were reported immediately after the event.

Winnipeg health officials said 14 of the 26 cases have been laboratory confirmed.  Four people have required hospitalization, and two, both children, continue to be held for treatment.  E. coli infection can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious complication that can lead to kidney failure.

Winnipeg’s 41-year-old Folklorama attracted 447,000 visitors to 45 pavilions over its two-week run from Aug 1-14, the highest attendance in three years.

While most the E. coli victims reported eating at the Russian pavilion, health officials are continuing their interviews and the investigation into what might be the common source of the outbreak.