‘Build a facility where people where people can wash their hands’; handwashing is never enough

I’m passionate about food safety because real people – folks who are just like my family, my neighbors or the guys on my hockey team – get sick every day.

Amanda Collins is a real person. NBC Connecticut reports that Amanda and her daughter are two of at least 15 people are ill with pathogenic E. coli after visiting a Connecticut goat farm.imagejpeg_02

“I walked right in,” Collins said. “Me loving farms, I held the goats, pet the goats and brought my daughter into the stall.”

Collins said it was a wonderful experience, with a knowledgeable staff and plenty of children and their parents around petting the goats.

However, a few days after the visit, the symptoms started. At first, she thought she had a stomach bug, but when her daughter developed the same symptoms, she knew something was wrong.

“Friday is when it hit, when I ended up having inestinal pain, diarrhea, seeing bloody stool,” Collins said. “And just seeing her go through the same thing that I physically felt myself is agnozing.“

After trips to the doctor’s office and the emergency room, both she and her daughter tested positive for E.coli. She did not put all of the pieces together until she got a call from the CDC.

“That’s when it clicked and I was like I did visit a farm and I had a lot of interaction with the animals,” Collins said.

“I cried a lot,” Collins said. “I was very anxious. I was upset about it at first, but never angry at the farm though.”

Collins said both she and her daughter used hand sanitizer at the farm and wet wipes once they got to the car. She said this will not stop them from visiting farms in the future.

“The only thing I would have to said is please build a facility where people where people can wash their hands because I think that will stop a lot from spreading.” Collins said.

Reducing risk in animal contact settings is more than just handwashing. Soil, sawdust, rails and food are all vectors.

Click here for a table summarizing petting zoo and animal contact outbreaks over the past 25 years.

Seven E. coli illnesses linked to Connecticut farm

Visiting animal displays are risky. Some animals shed pathogens in crazy high concentrations. The pathogens move around with foot traffic, sawdust and soil; end up on hand rails, rafters, water bottles and snacks.

Addressing risks is not just about handwashing.

According to the Hartford Courant a cluster of seven cases of pathogenic E. coli are linked to visiting a farm in Connecticut.

Officials said Thursday that six of the seven patients had visited the Oak Leaf Dairy Farm, and as a precaution the farm is not allowing people to visit the animals.

The seven patients are between 2 and 25 years old, according to DPH.

“Earlier today, DPH was informed of several patients from southeastern Connecticut who have become ill with E. coli,” said DPH Commissioner Raul Pino in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the situation and working with our partners at the CDC and other relevant stakeholders. We will continue to work diligently to provide the public with the information it needs as we investigate.”

Additionally the DPH was notified of two cases of hemolytic ermic syndrome, which affects the kidneys and the bloods ability to clot, officials said. It can develop in patients who have contracted E. coli.

A call to the farm Oak Leaf Dairy Farm was not immediately returned.

A table of petting zoo related outbreaks can be found here.


Handwashing is never enough: Rise in infections tied to animal encounters in Kentucky

Northern Kentucky health officials are urging residents to wash their hands if they encounter animals at county fairs after seeing a surge in intestinal infections in the region.

goat.petting.zooThe Northern Kentucky Health Department has received reports of E. coli, campylobacteriosis and Salmonella in local residents in recent weeks.

Of the three illnesses, the Ccmpylobacteriosis infection, causing diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and fever, is the most prevalent. Thirty-five cases have been reported from January through the third week of July this year. That compares with 18 cases in the first seven months of 2014, health department records show.

Seven salmonella cases have been reported to the health department in both the first and second quarters of 2015, and fewer than five E. coli cases were reported in each quarter, according to health department records. The department is not seeing increases in the two illnesses but is advising hand-washing to prevent all three diseases, because it’s the best way to prevent getting sick.

Many of the recent cases in the region are still under investigation, said Kelly Giesbrecht, a regional epidemiologist for the health department. “However, animal exposure seems to be common” so far among those who’ve contracted the illnesses.

About half of those with the illnesses are children, she said.

Health officials have seen the diseases associated with several types of animals, Giesbrecht said. Among them: cows, calves, goats, reptiles, chickens, ducks and puppies.

“Areas around the animals can become contaminated as well, so it’s important to keep those as clean as possible, and wash hands if coming into contact with surfaces,” Giesbrecht said


Health officials focus on animal contact as source in Cleveland County fair outbreak; secondary cases emerge

NC health director Laura Gerald said today that reported cases linked to the Cleveland County (NC) fair rose to 106 including secondary cases.  Tragically, Gage Lefevers died early this week and an additional 12 individuals have been hospitalized as a result of the outbreak.

In 2009 I had a Campylobacter infection. Not sure of the source, but I was part of an outbreak of at least 2. Jack, who was then 1, also caught the bug. He displayed symptoms 13 days after my first diarrheal explosion. Suffering from a foodborne pathogen-related illness often leads to someone cleaning up your vomit and loose poop – which has a tendency to spread everywhere. Or your 1-year-old sticks his hands in the toilet while you shower. That’s how secondary cases occur.

According to Steve Lyttle of the Raleigh News & Observer,

Officials have interviewed more than 150 people who attended the fair but did not get sick. Gerald said investigators also have tested the soil at the fairgrounds.

“While we are making progress in our investigation, we have not yet determined a specific cause,” she says. “We may not be able to pinpoint a single source, but hope to have more conclusive results within a month.”

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/petting-zoos-outbreaks,  and a list of risk factors at petting zoos and animal contact events at fairs can be found in: Erdozain G, Kukanich K, Chapman B, Powell D. 2012. Observation of public health risk behaviours, risk communication and hand hygiene at Kansas and Missouri petting zoos – 2010-2011. Zoonoses Public Health. 2012 Jul 30. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2012.01531.x. [Epub ahead of print]