A study conducted by North Carolina state health officials into the 27 confirmed E. coli illnesses amongst state fair attendees has revealed what most people probably suspected.  The source of the outbreak was, for the second time in a decade, a livestock exhibit at the state fair. 

The confirmed E. coli infections in 27 fairgoers were likely transmitted by animal exposure in the Kelley building, state epidemiologist Megan Davies said.

The Kelly building housed sheep, goats and pigs and hosted livestock competitions during the fair, but investigators haven’t identified any specific animal or breed in the outbreak, she said. No other exhibits, food or activities at the State Fair were linked to the E. coli infections.

In 2004, over 100 people were sickened, mostly children and some critically, in an E. coli outbreak linked to the North Carolina State Fair petting zoo.  The investigation into the outbreak concluded that victims’ exposures probably resulted from a confluence of 1) animals shedding E. coli O157:H7, 2) intensive and extensive contact with animals, and 3) behaviors associated with very young ages. The age distribution of cases in this outbreak also supported this conclusion given the level of contact possible and encouraged between young children and animals in this exhibit.

Here are some ideas for North Carolina and all other state and local fairs, and animal exhibiters:  ww.fair-safety.com