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Illnesses connected to 2 fairs

Petting zoos linked to kidney syndrome

A Collier County resident was recovering Monday, one of 14 Floridians diagnosed with a kidney syndrome possibly caused by petting zoos at two fairs.

The patient's name or gender was not released.

Last week the Florida Department of Health said it was investigating more than a dozen reported cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which begins as a strain of E. coli that lives in the gut of cattle, sheep, goat and other animals.

Most humans who are infected by it endure mild to severe diarrhea, but about 8 percent of people who ingest it will develop HUS, which can lead to kidney failure. Some of the symptoms of HUS include weakness, paleness and less frequent urination.

"We have a confirmed case," said Deb Millsap, spokesperson for the Collier County Health Department. "We are in close contact with our case. They've been monitored from the point that they had diarrhea. The person is doing well and recovering. We're still in contact."

On Monday a Pasco County girl's death was being investigated for possible connections with HUS, but Lindsay Hodges, a spokesperson for the state health department, said the girl was not on the state's list of confirmed cases.

The state said each of the 14 had visited either the Strawberry Festival in Plant City or the Central Florida Fair in Orlando. Nine of the confirmed cases live in Orange County, two in Volusia and one each in Seminole, Pasco and Collier. Two of the cases are adults and 12 are children.

Millsap said children may have been petting the animals or riding the ponies and then touching their mouths, but added that the infection could have come from anywhere.

Anyone who attended the fairs and have symptoms should contact their physician, she said.

"Although the state is investigating the festival, it's not sure if it was the petting zoo, the pony rides," Millsap said. "It also could've been things like milking demonstrations or a food handler that was contaminated.

"If an infant was walking around the petting zoo or the animals in a barn and falls in the ground, they can get E. coli from the feces of the animals," she said. "If later they touch their clothes and put their hand in their mouth like kids do, that could be a form of transmission."

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