A 20-month-old boy died after contracting E. coli at the Oxford County Fair in Oxford, Maine (video below). He is one of two kids who contracted the bacteria at the fair, CDC confirmed on Oct. 6.
Jon Guay of Poland, Maine, said his son, Colton, contracted the bacterial infection after visiting the petting zoo at the county fair in mid-September, Portland Press Herald reports. The toddler then developed severe diarrhea and brain seizures. He died about a week later, after six days in the hospital.
Jon has posted about his son's death on Facebook on Oct. 6, warning other parents about the risk of E. coli exposure from interacting with livestock.
The family visited the fair on Sept. 17 and Sept. 19, where the boy came into contact with various farm animals at the petting zoo, including a newborn calf and some pigs.
Meanwhile, another child who visited the same petting zoo at the Oxford County Fair around the same time as Colton, is still hospitalized at the Maine Medical Center in Portland after also contracting the E. coli bacteria. The two boys were admitted within six hours of each other.
Victor Herschaft of Auburn, Maine, posted on Facebook that his son, Myles, was undergoing treatment for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the same condition that Colton died of. HUS is caused by a bacteria that releases a toxin that attacks the brain, kidneys or other organs. In Colton's case, the condition led to brain seizures that caused the young boy's death.
A nursing supervisor recently said Myles was in fair condition.
John Martins, a spokesman for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), confirmed on Oct. 6 that the two children had exhibited symptoms consistent with E. coli, which is normally contracted through direct contact with human or animal feces.
Martins said laboratory tests conducted at the Health and Environmental Testing Lab in Augusta, Maine, revealed the presence of Shiga toxins, which are released from the E. coli bacteria, in both of the children's blood.
“The Maine CDC has been investigating for any common links to the cases, and that effort continues,” Martins said in an email to the Portland Press Herald. “Maine CDC is working with the state veterinarian and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to investigate the fact that each child attended the Oxford Fair and visited the animal barns and petting zoo.”
Dr. Michele Walsh, the state veterinarian, said she and her staff regularly visit the 26 agricultural fairs in Maine to examine the farm animals for signs of communicable diseases, though it may not be immediately apparent whether an animal is carrying E. coli because the bacteria typically lives in the animal's gut.
Walsh added that the state is not completely certain that the two affected toddlers contracted E. coli at the Oxford County Fair, just that the petting zoo at the fair was a "common point of connection."
In the meantime, the Fryeburg Fair, which opened on Oct. 4 in Fryeburg, Maine, is taking extra precautions to prevent E. coli contamination by posting a staff member at petting zoo exits to remind parents that their children should wash their hands thoroughly after interacting with farm animals.