A Minnesota petting zoo has pulled its animals from display as state health officials investigate how two siblings contracted E.coli, which proved fatal to one of them.
Three-year-old Kallan Maresh died on Sunday after a shiga toxin-producing bacteria she was infected with on July 9 sent her into kidney failure. Her 5-year-old brother, Kade, is still fighting for his life.
The Minnesota Department of Health told the Star Tribune that "out of an abundance of caution," a petting zoo they are believed to have visited has removed its animals from display until the source of the bacteria can be confirmed.
E.coli bacteria can be passed on to people through contact with animals, but also through several other ways such as by eating unsanitary meat, dairy or produce, at swimming in pools or lakes contaminated by animal feces.
The newspaper notes health officials are tracking where the siblings visited and what they ate over the past few weeks, and said they could be able to figure out the source by next week once lab results are in. No other similar cases have been reported.
FOX 9 reports that the petting zoo in question is the A maze'n Farmyard in Eden Valley, with state officials saying they have been "very cooperative" and helpful as they carry out an investigation that involves "multiple sources," not just the zoo.
Nonetheless the health department advises families visiting petting zoos to wash their hands immediately after visiting petting zoos, and avoiding hand-to-mouth contact by not eating or drinking around animals.
Update on Kade Maresh
In an update posted on CaringBridge Tuesday night, Tyffani Maresh said her son Kade had another blood and platelet transfusion on Tuesday and that his blood work suggests his condition has not yet stabilized, though he is showing signs of some "sass in his personality."
"He was also able to tolerate a few bites of Mac and Cheese," she adds. "It's the little things that give us hope! We look forward to tomorrow's (Wednesday) labs and are praying for a sign of stability."
"Not an hour goes by that our hearts don't ache for our baby girl to be here with us," she wrote, adding that her family has been "humbled by the overwhelming generosity and support."
A GoFundMe account set up to help the family has passed $50,000 in donations, after setting an initial target of $20,000.
The E.coli bacteria led to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in both children, which causes kidneys to stop working and red blood cells to be destroyed, though a health department official told the Star Tribune deaths resulting from this are rare.
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli is one of the most commonly heard about because of its connection to foodborne outbreaks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. There was a recent outbreak of this type of E. coli that was linked to recalled SoyNut Butter, but no cases were linked to Minnesota.