A mother is suing the Minnesota State Fair after her son allegedly contracted an E. coli infection and developed permanent kidney damage from touching livestock.
According to a lawsuit filed last week, Christina Vonderhaar said that, on August 29, she brought her son, then four, to the State Fair, where he pet several animals.
Within two days, he fell ill and was eventually hospitalized for about two weeks, reported The St Paul Press.
Doctors determined that Vonderhaar’s son, now five, had an E. coli infection and had subsequently developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is linked to this particular strain, O157:H7.
In September, the state’s Department of Health announced it was investigating 11 cases of E. coli infections, including seven hospitalizations.
Health officials later deduced that the outbreak was linked to petting animals at the State Fair’s Miracle of Birth Center.
Christina Vonderhaar took her son, then four, to visit the Minnesota State Fair on August 29, where he pet several animals (pictured)
He fell sick with bloody diarrhea on August 31 and was later hospitalized at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis for two weeks. Pictured: The petting zoo area at the State Fair, courtesy of Fox9
‘We believe that this E. coli outbreak could have been prevented,’ Tariq Miller, one of the attorneys who is representing Vonderhaar, told The Pioneer Press.
‘It’s disheartening to see young children continue to suffer when the dangers associated with petting zoos are well known.
‘The CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health have published recommendations on how these risks can be minimized. Had the Fair followed these recommendations, this outbreak would not have occurred.’
The Press reports that, according to the lawsuit, Vonderhaar’s son fell ill on August 31 and he was taken to the emergency room on September 3.
The next day, he was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, where he remained until he was discharged on September 13.
The boy was diagnosed with an infection of E. coli O157:H7, which can cause severe illness.
According to the Mayo Clinic, O157:H7 produces a powerful toxin, called Shiga toxin, which damages the lining of the small intestine.
Infections occur from coming into contact with the feces of humans or animals or eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.
Most people can recover without treatment, although there are cases in which people develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, like Vondehaar’s son.
This is a condition in which there is an abnormal destruction of blood platelets and red blood cells.
Doctors diagnosed the boy with an E. coli infection and that he had developed a type of kidney failure from it. Vonderhaar filed a lawsuit (pictured) last week seeking $50,000 in damages
The state Department of Health said 11 people in total contracted E. coli infections linked to the petting area at the State Fair. Pictured: The entrance to the Minnesota State Fair, September 2019
The damaged blood cells can clog the kidney’s filtering system, resulting in life-threatening kidney failure, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The boy ‘experienced states physical damage to his kidneys and other bodily organs,’ the lawsuit said, according to The Press.
The family is seeking $50,000 in damages for medical and hospital expenses, lost wages and future bills.
Vonderhaar’s son is not the only person who contracted E. coli at the Minnesota State Fair.
At least 10 other people, from ages two to 43, fell ill between August 25 and September 2 and seven were hospitalized.
The Press says it’s not immediately clear which animals were responsible for the outbreak because those infected came into contact with cattle, goats, pigs and sheep.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates E. coli O157:H7 causes 265,000 illness, 3,600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths in the US annually.