Preliminary test results indicate that the source of at least eight cases of E. coli O157:H7 (with five hospitalized) was a traveling petting zoo, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday. Department officials reportedly took samples from animals from the Zerebko Zoo Tran petting zoo in Bovey, which was at the Rice County Fair last month in Faribault, MN. Eight E. coli cases were confirmed by the department between July 9-24, although a local hospital reported nine cases in Rice County. Health officials only know about such cases if they receive a hotline call or a doctor submits stool samples from a patient. The next step is more testing to determine the sub-strain of E. coli O157:H7 involved, the department said, with official results expected next week. Wally Zerebko, owner of the petting zoo, noted that the preliminary test results were inconclusive and that subsequent fair visits he made with his animals didn’t result in any E. coli cases. However, Carrie Klumb with the state health department said that all of the E. coli cases there shared having contact with an animal. A number of disease outbreaks have been linked to petting zoos in recent years. In 2012, the petting zoo at a county fair in North Carolina was linked to an E. coli outbreak that sickened 106 people and ended in the death of a 2-year-old boy. Parents are advised to carefully monitor their children when petting farm animals. Children should immediately wash their hands after visiting a petting zoo and should not be given the opportunity to put their hands or fingers in their mouths after touching animals.