Maine Toddler Dies of E. Coli Bacteria Infection, Father Blames Petting Zoo

The father of a 21-month-old boy says their child died in a Portland hospital after falling ill a week after a visit to the Oxford County Fair. The child was diagnosed with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which is a disease born of E. coli, a bacteria that’s typically found in the intestines of both humans and animals.

After learning of another toddler who is in critical condition with the same condition after visiting the same petting zoo, the deceased boy’s father said he is convinced his child picked up the illness at the petting zoo. He told the Boston Globe he and the other family compared notes on everything they ate, places they went, cleanliness practices. He said the two children didn’t know each other and had never met.

“But we both went to the petting zoo,” he told a reporter.

The other child, 17 months, remains hospitalized.

Typically, the condition of H.U.S. causes complications with a person’s kidneys. The elderly, children and those who are immuno-compromised would be at the highest risk. However in this case, according to the child’s father, the disease attacked the child’s brain. What started off as severe diarrhea turned bloody. Doctors urged the family to simply keep the child hydrated. But as his condition worsened he was taken to a nearby hospital. On intravenous fluids for two days, he did not improve. He began having seizures, which ultimately led to brain damage. He was then sent to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at the Maine Medical Center in Portland. That’s where he received his diagnosis, and that’s where he died.

Organizers of the fair have not as of this writing responded to the media’s request for comment. It has been reported that the hand sanitizers near the petting zoo were empty.

State health officials have ascertained at this point that both boys were ill with the same strain of E. coli. That tells our Portland wrongful death lawyers the infections were from the same source. However, state health officials haven’t yet stated whether that source was a type of food, the petting zoo or some other possible source. Results of test samples taken from both children are expected to be returned soon.

This is not the first time this sort of tragic incident has occurred. In fact, E. coli outbreaks are linked to petting zoos and fairs across the country almost every summer.

For example in North Dakota this past summer, five children became sick in an E. coli outbreak after visiting a fair in Red River Valley. In the spring, there was another E. coli outbreak in Washington state that sickened at least three dozen children. And last year, a single strain of E. coli bacteria was linked to a traveling petting zoo that made at least 13 people sick.

A case out of North Carolina was perhaps the biggest E. coli outbreak, wherein a total of 108 people were sickened by the bacteria after visiting the North Carolina State Fair. Of those, 15 developed HUS. Following that incident, new recommendations were issued by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians. Those guidelines recommended children be restricted from directly entering petting zoos and having open interaction with the animals. Food and drinks should also be barred from petting zoo areas, as well as pacifiers, toys, sippy cups and baby bottles. Soiled animal bedding and manure should be immediately removed, and animal waste removal tools should be kept only in designated areas. Hand washing should be required, and staff should be present where contact does occur to reduce the possible risk.

It’s not clear yet whether these precautions were followed by organizers of the Oxford County Fair, as the investigation is ongoing.

The Portland, ME injury lawyers at Peter Thompson & Associates can be reached at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Maine father distraught as son dies after petting zoo visit, Oct. 7, 2015, By Aimee Ortiz, Boston Globe

More Blog Entries:

Rain-Slicked Roads a Hazard to Maine Motorists, Oct. 8, 2015, Portland Injury Attorney Blog

Contact Information