Officials Identify Source of E. coli Outbreak

Officials from the NC Division of Public Health and NC Department of Agriculture revealed Thursday that recent E. coli infections were likely transmitted in the Kelley Building at the NC State Fair in mid-October. The Kelley Building is a permanent structure where sheep, goats, and pigs were housed and competed in livestock shows during the fair. No other exhibits, foods or activities were linked to the E. coli infections, which affected more than two dozen individuals, many of them children.

The results came after a carefully conducted case-control study involving the 27 individuals identified as having contacted E. coli after attending the Fair in October, and another 87 individuals who attended the fair but did not get sick.

State Epidemiologist Megan Davies, MD, said the illness is likely related to animal contact, though the investigation did not implicate any specific animal or breed in the outbreak.

“We know that E. coli O157 is often found in the intestines of ruminant animals, which include cows, goats and sheep,” Dr. Davies said. “These bacteria are shed in the animal’s feces, so if it is on the animal itself or surfaces around the animal that someone touches, the bacteria can be transmitted to that person.”

Health and Agriculture officials say they are working to identify additional protective measures for fairgoers in the future.


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