3 children sick from E. coli after visiting petting zoo

5:59 AM, Oct 28, 2013   |    comments
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DAYTON, Minn. - Three children have become ill with E. coli after visiting a local petting zoo at a pumpkin patch

The Minnesota Department of Health reported the cases Saturday morning, raising concern that there could be more cases.

All three illnesses of E. coli and two other possible cases, have been linked to the petting zoo at the Dehn's Family Farm and Pumpkin Patch in Dayton.

Health officials say this farm is not the only place visitors need to be cautious.

Plenty of visitors were still enjoying the beautiful fall day at Dehn's Pumpkins on Saturday.

Sarah Carlson came with her husband and three daughters. 

"It's just kind of a tradition to come here every year," she said.

They picked out pumpkins and visited the corn pit, but they weren't able to visit the animals like they expected. The petting zoo is off limits, marked with caution tape. 

Joni Scheftel, state public health veterinarian with the Minnesota Department of Health, said the three children ranged in age from 15 months to seven years. She said they picked up E. coli from cattle or goats in the petting zoo.

"One is hospitalized with the complication of E. coli 0157 called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, which involves the kidneys," Scheftel said.

"It's hard. We feel bad about the families that have had these cases," said owner Jenna Dehn said. "We hope that they heal well and have a healthy recovery."

Dehn said while the other activities and pumpkins are just fine, but no one is allowed near the animals.

"That's why we've got the caution tape and signs posted everywhere," she said.

Signs on walls and near hand sanitizer, which has been available all season, urge visitors to wash their hands.

Scheftel said the possibility of picking up E. coli is not unique to this one farm. There are petting zoos at pumpkin patches and apple orchards across the state, and it can happen at any of them.

According to Scheftel, "Anytime people are around farm animals you can get E. coli 0157 and other infections and this is because perfectly healthy farm animals can carry germs that can make people sick."

She wants everyone to remember, after visiting animals, always wash your hands to ensure that the only thing families will bring home from fall outings are pumpkins and memories.

The Department of Health urges anyone who got sick after visiting Dehn's Pumpkins on Oct. 12 or later to see a doctor and to NOT take antibiotics as they can cause complications with kidneys.

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