A young woman greets hungry goats Thursday at the fair's petting zoo a day before such areas were closed to public access.
A young woman greets hungry goats Thursday at the fair’s petting zoo a day before such areas were closed to public access.

County health officials Tuesday confirmed a new case of E. coli in a 6-year-old boy who recently visited the San Diego County Fair and whose contraction of the bacteria is believed related to visiting the animal exhibits and not washing his hands afterward.

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency reported that the boy attended the fair and visited its animal exhibits on June 22. He started showing symptoms of an E. coli infection four days later, but did not require hospitalization and is currently recovering.

Last week, 2-year-old Jedidiah Cabezuela died after visiting the fair and contracting E. coli, at which point the fair indefinitely closed its animal exhibits.

Health officials also confirmed E.coli in two other children who attended the fair — a 9-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl.

The county also received reports last week of a fifth unconfirmed but probable case of the bacteria in an 11-year-old girl.

People can avoid contracting the bacteria by thoroughly washing their hands after making contact with animals at places like farms, petting zoos and fair exhibits. Young children, older adults and people with weak immune systems are at particular risk, according to health officials.

The HHSA and the California Department of Food and Agriculture have collected environmental samples at the fair in recent days to confirm the bacteria’s origin. However, results of the collected samples are not expected until after the fair closes July 4.

“As we continue our investigation, more cases are likely to be reported,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “This is typical of any public health investigation. Since we asked doctors to be on the lookout for (E. coli), they are more likely to test patients exhibiting symptoms.”

While most people who contract E. coli do not develop severe complications, roughly 5 to 10% of those who contract the bacteria can develop a potentially life-threatening kidney infection. Symptoms do not appear for three to four days after contraction and can include severe abdominal cramps, watery or bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

Residents should promptly call their doctor if they believe they have contracted E. coli, Wooten said, “especially if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days or diarrhea that is accompanied by a fever higher than 102 F, or blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine.”

City News Service