Potentially fatal E. coli outbreak linked to theme park
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
AKITA--Prefectural officials here say they have traced the source of an 0-157 food poisoning outbreak to a local theme park, where visitors are free to touch the animals on display.
They said all 17 people infected with the potentially fatal strain of E. coli bacteria visited Akita Furusato Mura (Akita hometown village) in Yokote city during the recent Golden Week holidays, or had family members who visited the park during the same period.
Six people required hospitalization for diarrhea or severe stomach pain.
The group included infants and senior citizens.
They all had direct contact with the animals.
Officials said they had yet to pinpoint which animals are carrying the bacteria.
During the Golden Week holidays that ran from April 29 through May 7, about 34,000 people visited the park's Akachan Dobutsuen (Baby zoo) attraction, which has 89 types of animals, including rabbits, sheep and goats.
Visitors were free to pet and hold the animals, the officials said.
The O-157 organism is most commonly associated with cattle.
It can be spread through consumption of contaminated meat that is not cooked properly or through contact with infected animals. The bacteria can also survive and be passed on through animal excrement.(IHT/Asahi: May 29,2006)