SAN DIEGO -- A 2-year-old boy died and three other children were sickened but not hospitalized after contracting E. coli linked to the San Diego County Fair, health officials said in a news conference Saturday morning, but the fair will remain open through the season's close.
The children, whose ages range from 2 to 13, reportedly visited the petting zoo or touched animals in other areas of the fair. According to the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency:
- A 13-year-old girl who visited the fair on June 8 became sick on June 10;
- An 11-year-old girl visited on June 8 and 12 and became sick on June 12;
- A 9-year-old boy visited on June 13 and was sickened on June 18;
- A 2-year-old boy visited on June 15 and became sick on June 19. He died on June 24.
Watch the full press conference here:
"Our sympathies go out to the family of the child that died from this illness," said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, county public health officer. She said that while most people recover from the illness, between 5 to 10 percent of people diagnosed with E. coli develop a life-threatening kidney infection.
Health officials inspected food facilities the children visited and found no link to the cases.
While the petting zoo and livestock areas will be closed to the public, officials voiced confidence that it was still safe to visit the fair through its closing date after Fourth of July. They emphasized the importance of washing hands before eating or touching your face.
"I hope people understand that to come out is safe and secure," said Timothy Fennell, CEO of the 22nd District Agricultural Association. "My grandchild is going to be here today. And my grandchild is a little older than a year-and-a-half. So I can tell you in all confidence that I'm very confident the fair is safe and secure."
Most people with an E. coli infection start feeling sick three to four days after eating or drinking something containing the bacteria. But illnesses can start between one to 10 days after exposure. Symptoms can include severe stomach cramps, watery or bloody diarrhea and vomiting.
Symptoms can occur with or without a fever.
People are encouraged to contact their doctor if they have experienced these symptoms on or after June 8, especially if they have had diarrhea for more than three days or diarrhea accompanied with a fever higher than 102 degrees or blood in the stool or so much vomiting that they cannot keep liquids down.
Health officials repeatedly advised that you always wash your hands after contact with animals.