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3 kids get E. coli infections from Minnesota petting zoo

Petting zoo istock.jpg

Three children developed bacterial infections after they played with animals at a pumpkin farm in Dayton, Minn., and one child was hospitalized with complications, the state Department of Health said Saturday.

The children, who are all from the Twin Cities area, range in age from 15 months to 7 years. All three have the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 infections, the health department said.

One child was hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious complication that can result in kidney failure. The other two weren't hospitalized.

All three came into contact with goats or cattle at Dehn's Pumpkins on Oct. 12 or 13, and they got sick four to five days later. Health officials are looking into cases of two other people who visited the farm and reported similar symptoms.

This E. coli strain is common in cattle and goats. People generally get sick from touching farm animals or surfaces contaminated with animal droppings. E. coli can be present on the animals' fur, in their saliva and on the floor and railings of their pens.

The health department said the pumpkin farm was cooperating with the investigation. The farm has closed off public access to the animals but its pumpkin patch remains open for business.

A message left at the farm was not immediately returned Saturday.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools. People generally get sick two to five days after exposure. Most people recover in five to 10 days, although children and the elderly are most at risk of hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Anyone who visited Dehn's Pumpkins since Oct. 12 and develops symptoms of infection should seek medical treatment immediately, health officials said.

The best way to prevent infections is to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately afterward. Hand sanitizers can sometimes help but hand-washing is more effective, the health department said.