Four people, including two children, have been sickened with E. coli infections after recent visits to the city of Everett’s animal farm.
“It’s a reminder that all petting zoos have a hazard,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.
All four people were sickened with vomiting and diarrhea. Both children are under the age of 5. One was hospitalized for several days at Seattle Children’s Hospital but has since been discharged, Goldbaum said.
The two adults were both under age 30, he said. One was a city employee who worked at the farm.
None of the other three people who became ill was hospitalized.
There are no other suspected cases, Goldbaum said. However, anyone who has visited the animal farm since its opening on June 4 and had bouts of vomiting and diarrhea should contact their medical clinic, he said. Be sure to mention the visit to the animal farm, he added.
The exact type of E. coli the people have been sickened with has not yet been identified, but Goldbaum suspects it will be E. coli O157:H7, which has caused numerous food outbreaks in the past.
The bacterium resides in the intestines of animals.
The animal farm, run by Everett’s parks department, has 25,000 visitors each year. The animals kept there include sheep, calves, piglets, chickens, goats, ducks, a horse, a pony and bunnies.
The city has no plans to temporarily close the animal farm, said spokeswoman Kate Reardon. It will operate on its normal hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Aug. 14.
The city spent three and a half hours thoroughly cleaning the farm after learning that all four people sickened with E. coli had recently been on the animal farm site, she said.
Both she and Goldbaum said they feel it is safe for children to visit the animal farm, but they emphasized the importance of having children vigorously wash their hands after being in contact with farm animals.
The message doesn’t just apply to petting zoos, but to fairs and farms that families may visit in the summer time, Goldbaum said.
“It’s essential that children be monitored … and that everyone washes their hands carefully after touching anything at the petting zoo,” Goldbaum said. “It’s important to make sure you’re protecting yourself against infections.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or email@example.com