The Minnesota State Fair has been connected to an outbreak of an E. coli strain, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
To date, disease doctors have identified 11 cases of E. coli 0157 among Minnesotans who were at the State Fair between Aug. 25 and Sept. 2. All of them fell ill between Aug. 29 and Sept. 6.
Ages of those sickened range from 2 to 43 years old. Six of the cases required the patient to be hospitalized, including one person developing hemolytic uremic syndrome, which the MDH says is a potentially fatal complication.
One person is still in a hospital being treated.
Investigators are working to determine the source of the outbreak, with evidence so far indicating that it most likely began with contact with livestock.
Most of the 11 patients visited the Miracle of Birth exhibit and made physical contact with calves, goats, sheep or piglets, but others suffering from the E. coli strain did not make direct contact with animals, leading the MDH to consider the possibility that those people made contact with contaminated surfaces.
"This serves as a strong reminder to always wash your hands after being around livestock and their enclosures," the MDH says.
Fortunately, there is "little chance" of ongoing exposure to the strain since the fair has ended.
“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,” an MDH spokesperson said. “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.”
Symptoms of E. coli 0157 include:
- Stomach cramps with diarrhea
- Often times bloody stools
- Low-grade or no fever
People typically begin experiencing symptoms 2-5 days after exposure, but sometimes the symptoms won't come on until eight days later. Recovery generally takes place over the course of 5-10 days, but E. coli 0157 infections can lead to serious complications.
One patient suffered from a serious complication of E. coli 0157, developing hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure and death.
More information about E. coli 0157 can be found here.