Georgia state health officials are investigating whether E. coli was spread at the Georgia National Fair held earlier this month.
Officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health said they have confirmed four cases of the illness among children who were at the event from Oct. 7 to Oct. 17, news outlets reported. Three of them are now hospitalized.
E. coli is a bacterium that can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and even kidney damage in some severe cases. It can be passed in several ways, like eating raw vegetables and undercooked ground beef. It can also be spread person-to-person on unwashed hands and surfaces, or by touching animals at petting zoos which the Georgia National Fair had.
The DPH and the North Central Health District are working with fair staff to determine how the children became infected.
“We are hoping we don’t see any more cases, but we encourage anyone that feels like they may have been infected to contact their primary care physician, “ said NCHD spokesperson Michael Hokanson, according to local media outlets.
Hokanson said they’ve created an online survey that they hope will help them pinpoint the cause of the problem. Anyone who went to the fair can fill it out — even if they did not get sick after the event. State epidemiologists are working to determine what could have caused the outbreak by comparing activities between those who became sick and those who did not.
It takes some people with a mild E.coli infection a week to recover, but young children, elderly adults and people with chronic medical conditions have a higher risk of a severe illness or death.
In addition, the North Central Health District (NCHD) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) are working with the staff of the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter to investigate cases of E. coli in attendees of the Georgia National Fair.
All 4 confirmed patients are children that reside in counties across the state of Georgia, and three of these cases have been hospitalized. Of the four cases, one has been confirmed to be E.coli O157:H7. Testing of the other patients is ongoing.
NCHD and DPH epidemiologists are just beginning the investigation. Moving forward, the investigation will include case identification, laboratory testing, community surveying to assess risk factors/source of infection and more.
Anyone that attended the fair can help by completing the following survey:
All information provided to public health will remain confidential in accordance with HIPAA practices. Information will be used to investigate and determine what could have caused illness by comparing activities between those who became sick and those who did not. A map of the fairgrounds is included below to aid in survey completion.
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