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Kids and Petting Zoos

Simple Steps Can Prevent Infections at Petting Zoos

By Michele Bloomquist
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith

Five cases of life-threatening kidney failure highlight the needs for parents to take special precautions when their child visits a petting zoo.

According to published repots, five children in Florida have developed a condition that likely stems from contact with animals infected with a strain of E. coli bacteria called 0157:H7. Usually this infection comes from eating undercooked beef or contaminated food. These children may have been exposed to E. coli through animal feces, according to health officials.

The five children have developed a complication of E. coli infection called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. Four of the children had visited a local fair in Orlando, Fla. The fifth child developed the infection after visiting a petting zoo in Plant City, Fla.

E. Coli Symptoms

Infection with this strain of E. coli can cause severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which may become bloody by the second or third day, according to the medical experts at MedicineNet.com, a WebMD company. Nausea and vomiting are present in approximately half of the patients. Most patients recover in seven to 10 days, but some (6%) go on to have HUS. This is most likely to happen in children and the elderly. Some patients develop brain problems, such as seizures. Many patients require dialysis and blood transfusions. About 3% to 5% of people with HUS die.