Updated October 23 with information about hospitalizations. A Tennessee E. coli outbreak includes elementary students who visited an animal exhibit at the Appalachian Fairgrounds September 26-27. Eight of them are hospitalized, four have developed severe complications.
Young children are at heightened risk of developing a life-threatening complication of E. coli infections called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which causes renal failure.
As many as 1,000 elementary school students and some adults from Kingsport, Sullivan County, and Bristol, Tennessee, school systems may have been exposed to a dangerous strain of E. coli during the field trip. Health officials have not released the number of total cases confirmed, but one parent estimated that at least 40 children are ill.
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“My kids just wanted to go on a field trip”
Emily Berkley of Jonesborough told Times News that three of her children developed E. coli infections after the field trip last month. Her 5-year-old daughter Kamryn who was on the September 26 field trip was hospitalized at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville and has been released. Her son Kingston, 7, was on the September 27 field trip. He and his little brother Liam, 3, both developed E. coli infections and were hospitalized at Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City. Kingston has recovered, she told the paper, but Liam developed HUS and was transferred to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville.
Doctors have told Emily that Liam faces a myriad of complications and will likely need a blood transfusion and start dialysis soon, she told the paper. “My kids just wanted to go on a field trip, man. They didn’t bargain for all of this.”
“We are in serious need of a miracle”
Deidre Hefflin of Bristol, Tennessee has four sons, she told Times News. Graceson, her 5-year-old, went on the field trip with his kindergarten class and ate a lunch provided by the Avoca Elementary School. He and his older brother have been symptom-free, but her two younger boys are very sick.
Graceson said he used soap and water to wash his hands before eating, but may have stepped in contaminated hay or feces and tracked it onto the floors at home where his young siblings crawl and play, she told the paper.
River, 15 months, has an atypical case of HUS which can cause brain damage, Deidre told the News Times. He was initially admitted to Bristol Regional Medical Center, then transferred to Niswonger Children’s Hospital, then transferred again to the pediatric intensive care unit at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville where her son Elijah was admitted last night. “Things have gone downhill fast,” she told the paper last week.
Doctors at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital have told the family the boys will be there for one or two weeks.
River is starting to show some positive responses to dialysis, Deidre told WJHL, but an MRI confirmed that River has suffered brain damage and will likely have to learn how to walk and talk again. The family is “in serious need of a mircale,” she told the station.
Appalachian Fairgrounds E. coli Outbreak Investigation
The Northeast Regional Health Office and the Sullivan County Health Department are investigating the E. coli outbreak associated with an animal exhibit at the Appalachian Fairgrounds September 26-27. Dr. Stephen May, medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, told Times News that animals at an exhibit that included goats, ponies, cattle, and other farm animals.
Health officials are reaching out to families of pre-kindergarten through second-grade students who attended the event.
Petting Zoo and Animal Exhibit Safety
Handwashing with soap and water is key to the prevention of E. coli associated with animal contact exhibits. Hand sanitizer or washing facilities must be available to visitors and food and drink in these areas should be prohibited.
The children on this field trip did eat lunch. It is not yet known what kind of handwashing facilities were made available to the young visitors.
Experienced E. coli Lawyers
The Pritzker Hageman E. coli Legal Team has extensive experience with animal exhibit cases including Tennessee children sickened in the Lucky Ladd Farms E. coli outbreak. Recently, we won a $7.55 million verdict in a lawsuit against a petting zoo for E. coli in a young child. Our young client almost died because she developed HUS. Our team also recently won a wrongful death settlement for a family whose child died from E. coli after visiting an animal barn at a state fair.
If your child developed an E. coli infection from an animal exhibit and you would like a free consultation with an experienced E. coli lawyer, please contact us by calling 1-888-377-8900, sending a text to 612-261-0856, or by completing the form below. The consultation is free and there is no obligation.