At least two dozen people were infected with a potentially deadly strain of e-coli bacteria in central Florida, and farm animals are what state has concluded caused the outbreak.
State veterinarian Thomas Holt says scientists matched DNA from two cows, two goats, and two sheep owned by Ag-Venture Farms in Plant City to the DNA in the bacteria contracted by dozens of victims.
Dr. Thomas Holt says, "It is very similar to what we think of as a fingerprint. It is a DNA sequence where they’re comparing the sequence."
State Health Secretary John Agwunobi says the next step is figuring out why these people got sick and hundreds of others who visited the zoos did not.
John Agwunobi of the Florida Department of Health says, "Was it the people who were eating at the petting zoo who got sick? Was it the people who had babies on the ground that got sick? It allows us to answer some of these important questions that we can use in the future to protect other people."
But state officials don’t want you to be afraid of going to exhibits and petting zoos that have wildlife and farm animals. They say it can be an educational experience if you use common sense.
At the Tallahassee Museum of Science and Natural History, interpreter Marian Hestor invites children to touch a black snake, but she keeps a bottle of hand sanitizer close by.
Marian says, "The first thing I want to remind you before you touch is don't put your fingers in your mouth, and we’ll kind of clean our hands afterward. We think our animals are clean, but any time you touch an animal, you need to wash your hands."
State officials say there is no evidence any other petting zoos or animal exhibits are affected by the outbreak. Ag-Venture Farms has voluntarily quarantined its animals indefinitely.
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