June 21, 2019

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and Grant’s Farm in St. Louis Looking into Recent Illnesses Among Visitors

Media Contact:
Lisa Cox
Chief, Office of Public Information
Missouri DHSS of Health and Senior Services

JEFFERSON CITY, MO -- The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and local health agencies in the St. Louis metro area, is investigating five Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) cases that have visited Grant’s Farm since late May 2019. The investigation is ongoing and is focused on determining the specific risk that may have led to the illnesses.

MDA and DHSS have provided preliminary recommendations to Grant’s Farm to help remind patrons of the importance of handwashing after direct contact with animals. Grant’s Farm also is actively participating in the investigation by allowing animal specimens to be collected by investigators. This is in addition to routine visits from state inspectors to help supervise the health of the animals at the park.

A spokesperson for Grant’s Farm provided the following statement:

“At Grant’s Farm, the safety of our patrons, our employees, and our animal population is our highest priority. We are working closely with the state Dept. of Health and taking all necessary precautions to ensure we provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our visitors.

We have a team of veterinary experts that work diligently to ensure our animals are healthy. Out of an abundance of caution, we will also be taking further safety measures, including the addition of several more hand-washing/antibacterial stations, and increased signage to remind our visitors of the importance of proper hygiene after coming into contact with the animals.

We will continue to follow the guidance of the public health experts that are managing this issue, and will defer to the Department of Health on any additional next steps.”

DHSS recommends that visitors to the farm follow the guidance of posted signs at Grant’s Farm, and use the hand sinks and/or hand sanitizer after touching the animals or the animal habitats and before eating or drinking. Those who have visited the farm since May 2019 and develop symptoms of STEC should let their medical provider know of their exposure.

STEC is a group of bacteria in the E. coli family that produces Shiga toxin, which is harmful to humans. Symptoms usually begin about 3-4 days after an exposure to the bacteria, but can appear between 1-10 days after an exposure. The symptoms of STEC infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/less than 38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5-7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

About 5-10 percent of those infected can develop a serious kidney condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which requires hospitalization and can be fatal. HUS normally develops about 7-21 days after onset of diarrheal illness. Antibiotic treatment and antidiarrheal agents for STEC are not recommended and may increase a person’s risk for developing HUS. Treatment for STEC should include supportive therapy, including hydration.

For more guidance about safety when visiting animal exhibits, please follow these links: 

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/resources/exhibits-hand-washing.pdf (English)
https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/resources/exhibits-hand-washing.pdf (Spanish)
https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pdfs/publications/5-things-to-do-right-after-visiting-animals-P.pdf (for younger audiences)

About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in protecting health and keeping people safe. More information about DHSS can be found at http://health.mo.gov or find us on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyLivingMo.