On August 26, 2002, Lane County Public Health (LCPH) announced that an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak had been traced to attendance at the Lane County Fair. The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) later announced that 82 cases of E. coli had been identified by the end of the outbreak, which is believed to be the largest E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Oregon history.
Although not confirmed, health officials postulated that possible exposures leading to the outbreak occurred at animal enclosures, including the cattle tent, horse barn, and exposition halls that housed goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and guinea pigs. Investigators tried to trace the transmission path of the bacteria to develop a strategy to prevent the outbreak in the future. They established a genetic link between the E. coli isolated from victims of the outbreak and the barnyard animals at the fair, and discovered E. coli O157:H7 bacteria on pipes 15 feet above goat pens in a fair exhibition hall, where about 75 people, including 12 children, were believed to be infected, leading them to believe the toxins were spread through the air.
The Lane County outbreak was the largest E. coli outbreak in Oregon State history. Since the outbreak, Lane County and many other fairs have installed hand-washing stations and signs warning fairgoers to wash their hands thoroughly after touching animals.
Marler Clark represented many of the victims of the E. coli outbreak at the Lane County Fair.