Friday, August 25, 2000

E. coli cases linked to county fair

By Susan DiMauro
The Associated Press

        With more than 30 people infected with the E. coli bacteria in northeast Ohio, a suspected link to the Medina County Fair is resulting in new precautions at other county fairs.

        Several county fairs have hand sanitizers and hand-washing stations available, along with reminders to patrons that they should wash their hands, especially after touching animals.

        The number of people infected with E. coli in northeast Ohio has risen to 34, the Ohio Department of Health said. Sixteen cases were reported from Medina County, 25 miles southwest of Cleveland.

        E. coli can cause bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and, in the worst cases, kidney failure.

        While many of those infected did not attend the fair, which ended Aug. 6, investigators consider a source of the contamination direct contact with animals or animal feces.

        “We're taking this situation seriously,” said Terry Lash, secretary-manager of the Ashland County Fair, to be held next month. “Previous to this, we already had a number of hand-washing stations. We decided we absolutely had to add more because we need to provide every person a way to prevent getting this bacteria.”

        At this week's Portage County-Randolph Fair, more sanitizers can be found throughout the grounds than in years past. Vendors and fair advisers also were given pamphlets about ways to prevent the spread of bacteria, said Debi Heppe, a fair board director.

        Kevin Marsh, director of communication services, said the best way to prevent infection is by keeping hands clean.


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