The parents of a toddler say their son passed away after contracting E. coli at the Oxford County Fair in Maine.
Beth and Jon Guay of Poland, Maine, say that their 20-month-old son Colton may have contracted Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome after being exposed to E. coli bacteria while visiting a petting zoo at the Oxford Fair.
"It is believed that he contracted it through simple interaction with farm animals at a local fair," Guay said in a Facebook post Tuesday. "It began with severe diarrhea and ended with massive brain seizures that ultimately took his life."
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“He was just a happy, happy baby,” said Beth Guay. “We’re just figuring out how we’re going to go forward without him.”
Public health officials in Maine confirmed that two children who recently attended the fair contracted E. coli and said they are working to determine whether there are any other common links to the two cases. Authorities are not releasing any further information, citing confidentiality laws.
On Tuesday night, Victor Herschaft said his son, Myles, has also contracted HUS from E. coli exposure. The Guay’s said they met the Herschaft family at the hospital, and realized their children had attended the same petting zoo at the same fair.
“Myles is still battling with HUS,” said Herschaft. “We need more people aware as more and more cases are appearing in recent months in Maine. And to the Guay family I’m so sorry for your loss.”
The traveling fair was held from Sept. 16 through Sept. 19. A fair spokesperson says this is a tragedy and they're not aware of any other cases.
Dr. David Meguerdichian of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston says E.coli is a common bacteria that's found in both people and animal's intestinal tracks, but that some E. coli can make you sick.
When necn asked Dr. Meguerdichian about animal transmission, he said that's a less common occurrence and something you don't see as often.
"You can get this from animals when there's contact with animal feces as well...Usually the cases we hear about in the news have been from food exposures or under-cooked food such as hamburger meat," he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, animals that can spread E. coli to humans are cows, especially calves, goats, sheep, and deer.
The CDC says the animals appear to be healthy and clean, but the germs can "quickly contaminate the animals skin, fur, feathers and the areas where they live."
Dr. Meguerdichian says hand sanitizer, if used properly, is a pretty good agent for decreasing the chances of being exposed to the bacteria, but he says washing hands with soap and water is the best approach to getting rid of the E.coli bacteria.
Symptoms of E.coli can include very severe diarrhea, sometimes bloody, a fever, and vomiting.
Most people can recover, but Dr. Meguerdichian says it can be more serious for people with compromised immune systems and for the young and really old.
E. coli is rare but has been connected to a number of fairs across the country in recent years, including cases in North Carolina, Oregon and Washington.
To prevent becoming ill, the CDC recommends the following:
- Wash your hands often: In fact, wash your hands when leaving an animal area, even if you didn't touch an animal.
- Eat and drink safely: Keep food and drinks out of animal areas, and do not share your food with animals.
- Keep children safe around animals: Never allow a child to put their thumbs, fingers or objects in their mouth while interacting with animals.
The CDC also suggests leaving strollers, bottles and pacifiers outside of animal areas.