ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of E. coli associated with the Minnesota State Fair.
Investigators identified 11 cases among Minnesota residents who visited the fair prior to becoming ill. The residents reported visiting the fair between Aug. 25 and Sept. 2, and becoming ill between Aug. 29 and Sept. 6.
Evidence collected from those infected suggests that contact with livestock is a key factor.
Those infected range in age from 2 to 43 years of age. Six patients have been hospitalized, and one developed a potentially fatal complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. One person remains hospitalized.
MDH and fair officials are working together to determine the source of the outbreak. A common denominator is that most of those infected reported visiting the Miracle of Birth exhibit and having contact with calves, goats, sheep or piglets. Some did not have direct contact with animals, and may have been exposed through contact with contaminated surfaces like fence rails.
MDH says this is a reminder to always wash your hands after being around livestock and their enclosures.
Bacteria tests from several cases show E. coli O157 strains are factors in the cases.
“These infections can have serious health impacts and there is always a chance that an ill person can pass along the infection to others through close contact,” MDH State Public Health Veterinarian Joni Schefte explains. “Anyone who believes they may have developed an E. coli O157 infection should contact their health care provider. E. coli O157 infections should not be treated with antibiotics, as this might lead to serious complications.”
According to the MDH, symptoms of E. coli O157 include stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools, and a low-grade fever. People typically become ill two to five days of exposure and most people recover in five to 10 days, MDH says.
Those most at risk are children under 10, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
E. coli O157 can be passed from person to person through fecal-oral transmission, especially among families with children still in diapers. It can be passed in stool for weeks, and sometimes even months after symptoms resolve.