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Petting-zoo safety stressed in wake of E. coli illnesses

While over 22 people suffer the effects of E. coli infection due to recent petting zoo visits in Florida, more than a few people are still willing to play with farm animals at recent local events.
Duck Duck Goose Petting Zoo of Bushnell, the company who provided the animals for the Park’s petting zoo, is happy that the children are having a good time. The owner, Lynda Lewis, is also grateful that Mount Dora and Lake Eustis Railway, who are sponsoring the event at Wooton Park, has hired her.
The recent E. coli outbreaks have been linked to petting zoos at three separate fairs in Florida, who had all hired AgVenture Farm Tours for their animals. The outbreak has caused cancellations throughout the state for petting zoo owners. Other fairs are cancelling petting zoos altogether, or opting for events with animals that do not involve human contact.
She doesn’t know what the long-term effect might be on her 10-year-old business. Duck Duck Goose Petting Zoo has always offered a cleanup area and sanitizer, and their animals are inspected annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“They get a bath every morning before an event,” she said. “We’ve never had any problems. We have sanitizers, hand wipes — we always have. And there are bathrooms nearby.”
The spread of the illness was surprising to her, she said. “I never even heard of HUS until last week,” she said. “And I never heard of an illness spreading like this.”

The severe diarrhea from the E. coli infection also can develop into a more serious condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, which has struck a number of Florida children who were infected from the AgVenture animals. That ailment, which can be fatal, causes kidney failure and can require dialysis. In addition to the 22 confirmed cases, health officials are still investigating 35 suspected cases around Florida and three in Ohio and Georgia.

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