According to the Bellingham Herald – of the 32 cases traced to the festival:
- 17 have been confirmed by the state’s public health lab or tested positive at local labs — or were people with E. coli symptoms who had been in close contact with someone in the first two groups.
- 15 additional people had been at the festival and were sick but lab results, some of which were pending, weren’t available yet.
- 4 have been hospitalized.
We have been retained by several of the families, including one child who has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
The Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) continues to investigate an outbreak of shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 associated with the Milk Makers Fest that was held at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden Washington on 4/21 – 4/23/15. WCHD is continuing to interview cases to determine if there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other contact with livestock.
It is certainly not like we have not seen this before:
- AgVenture Farms Petting Zoo E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak Lawsuits – Florida (2005)
- Big Fresno Fair E. coli Outbreak Lawsuit – California (2005)
- Cleveland County Fair E. coli Outbreak – North Carolina (2012)
- Crossroads Farm Petting Zoo E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits – North Carolina (2004)
- Cuyahoga County E. coli outbreak – Ohio (2009)
- Lane County Fair E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits – Oregon (2002)
- White Water Water Park E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits – Georgia (1998)
For more information on the risks of zoonotic exposures, see Fair Safety Dot Com.
According to WCHD, shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections are caused by bacteria found in the guts of many mammals, some of which can cause severe infections. It takes only a relatively few (hundreds) of bacteria to cause infection. The bacteria can contaminate food, water, or surfaces where they can go from hand to mouth. Secondary cases are common among household members. Illness occurs 1-8 days after infection, and can be mild or severe. Symptoms include cramping diarrhea, which can become bloody after a few days. Usually there is no fever, or only a low grade one. Maintaining hydration can reduce the risk of complications. Severe disease can result in hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Antibiotics and antimotility (antidiarrheal) medicines can increase the risk of HUS in STEC infections.