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Washington County health officials are investigating after cases of E. coli were reported after some attendants at the Washington County Fair became ill.

Several cases of a diarrheal illness called Shinga Toxin-producing E. coli ---- or “STEC” --- have been reported in Washington County, the county's Department of Health and Human Services said on Wednesday.

No sources has been identified, but public health officials said that livestock at the Washington County Fair may have been a cause, as well as food items brought to the fair from outside.

According to Washington County, anyone who attended the Washington County Fair and has had, or develops, symptoms of stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting or fever, should call their health care provider.

“This type of infection is highly contagious even when symptoms are mild,” Deputy Health Officer Christina Baumann said. “To prevent the spread of disease, people with diarrhea should stay home while sick and avoid handling food or preparing food for others.”

A small number of people infected with STEC may develop a life-threatening complications form the disease, said Wendy Gordon, spokeswoman for the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services. Young children are at the highest risk for this complication.

“The best way to prevent getting STEC infection is by washing hands well with soap and water,” Baumann said. “It’s very important to wash your hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers, before preparing or eating food, and after contact with animals or their environments at farms, petting zoos and fairs.”

STEC outbreaks at fairs are not uncommon, Gordon said, and with several county and state fairs still to come this season, fairgoers should take the following precautions to keep themselves and their children healthy:

• Do not put anything in your mouth in the animal areas, including food, beverage, pacifiers, toys or hands.

• Leave any unnecessary items outside the animal areas.

• Be aware that objects such as clothing, shoes and strollers can be contaminated with germs in the animal areas.

• Wash your hands regularly

• Be sure to supervise your children to make sure they are washing their hands well.

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