An outbreak of Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STEC) O157:H7 linked to a petting zoo in Rutherford County, TN, has resulted in the death of a 2-year-old, according to a report from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH).

The petting zoo, Lucky Ladd Farms, was not identified in the report but has released a statement on its Facebook page.

“We have received several requests for factual information on the E. coli outbreak that occurred on the farm this past summer and the current status and safety of visiting our facility.

“Our family and staff continue to offer our prayers and heartfelt condolences to everyone affected by the very sad outcome that occurred in June.” Their full statement can be read here.

TDH was first notified of an ill child hospitalized in Florida after attending a goat husbandry summer camp at a local farm in Rutherford County on June 22. They received a second call on June 25 from the same mother stating she knew of a 2-year-old patient hospitalized at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, TN, with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and reported that this child’s older brother had attended the same camp.

On June 27, TDH’s Foodborne and Enteric Diseases (FED) team initiated an outbreak investigation. Lucky Ladd Farms included attractions such as a petting zoo, pony rides, splash pad, walking trails, various fields and three food service establishments. 

During the summer months, the farm held multiple five-day summer camps teaching animal husbandry for children ages 6-10. Among other activities, children pick out a baby goat and cared for it the remainder of the camp. Children attended camp during the day and return home each afternoon. 

Of 82 attendees of the summer camp, FED identified three confirmed cases of E. coli — two primary (camp attendees) and another secondary (a family member of an attendee). The 2-year-old was a family member of one of the summer camp attendees. FED identified 11 other probable cases.

The TDH FED concluded that this outbreak was from direct contact with goats infected with E. coli O157:H7 with secondary transmission from cases. The TDH suggests that the implementation of control measures in place at the farm to minimize transmission may have reduced additional illnesses.

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