The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed that at least three children have been infected with E. coli O157:H7 after coming into contact with cattle and g0ats at Dehn’s Pumpkins in Dayton, MN. The children are aged 15 months to 7 years, and one child has been hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe kidney disease associated with E. coli infection. All three visited the pumpkin patch petting zoo on Oct. 12 or 13 and became ill on Oct. 16 or 18. Health officials are following up with other visitors to determine if more are ill. Two additional people who visited the farm on Oct. 18 have reported symptoms consistent with E. coli O157:H7 infection and are currently being tested. The farm owners have been cooperating fully with the investigation, and public access to the cattle and goat areas is being prohibited. The rest of the farm, including the pumpkin patch, remains open for business. The best way to prevent infections from contact with animals is to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately afterwards. Hand sanitizers might afford some protection until hands can be washed with soap and water but do not work well against some germs or when hands are visibly soiled. Food, drinks, and items that promote hand-to-mouth contact (for example, pacifiers) should never be brought into animal areas. E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2-8 days (3-4 days on average) after exposure to the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children younger than 5 years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

  • Jim Mann

    While the FDA rejects the science of a proven petting zoo solution, peer reviewed and published, these life-threatening outbreaks are particularly frustrating. Minnesota regulators know about this answer but do not promote it when issuing permits for petting zoos. It is a protocol called SaniTwice and Minnesota representatives have directly contributed to its multi-year delays at the Conference For Food Protection (CFP).
    Are any of your readers in position to help break this unwarranted resistance?

    • George Wilson

      Jim,

      In total agreement that preventive controls need to be put in place for petting zoos. I’ll read up on the SaniTwice protocol that Minnesota representatives are delaying.

      One other preventive control measure that all States should consider is that all petting zoo animals be screened for E coli O157:H7 and non O157 STEC pathogens two weeks prior to entry into the zoo. If negative, then the permit is issued and the animal is allowed entry. State or county public health labs can run these test for a nominal cost.

      Whether coming from foods, or petting zoo animals, E. coli O157:H7 is a highly virulent pathogen to humans. As a Board member of STOP Foodborne Illness, we work with various organizations, who have interest in foodborne pathogens. Will share this public health issue with them for consideration.

  • Bill Riedel

    Have disposable gloves got a role to play in preventing such infections? I feel it would be a good teaching mament.

    • Andy

      I think gloves might pose an issue with animals likely to choke on them if they are not disposed of properly, or if a suckling kid goat or lamb manages to get them off the hand. Secondly, not sure gloves are available in such small hand sizes, and lastly in my view gloves are no substitute for hand washing. Wearing gloves can lead to a flase sense of security when actually they offer very little security at all. Beloved by health departments, loathed by quality managers