SHELBY, N.C. -- The Cleveland County Fair Association said on Monday it plans to adopt the recommendations of a task force following an E. coli outbreak that sickened 106 people and killed one toddler last fall.
Investigators linked the illnesses back to the petting zoo at fair.
“The message at the Cleveland County Fair is that, ‘Hey, we want you to come to the Cleveland County Fair and we're doing everything, as we did last year, above and beyond to make it a fun and safe environment for a family’,” said Calvin Hastings, Fair Association Manager.
The recommendations include more hand washing stations, more signs warning about the dangers of E. coli, regulated pedestrian traffic in and out of animal areas and improved waste management in the animal areas.
Because of the new precautions, Hastings suggested that the petting zoo might be unlikely for 2013. But he said it might be back with the new safety recommendations in 2014.
The task force, the Cleveland County Fair Working Group, was a 17 member group filled with local and state officials. During a press conference Monday, members reminded reporters that the fair operated safely and within state law in 2013 when the E. coli outbreak occurred.
“You can reduce the possibility of getting it. And so that's what we're here to do because we know we're not going to eliminate it completely, but we want to reduce it as much we possibly can,” said Dorothea Wyant, chairperson of the Cleveland County Fair Working Group.
For families of the people sickened by the outbreak, the precautions may not be enough.
“I don't see us going back,” said Grady McNair.
McNair’s 12-year-old son spent a month in the hospital after doctors believe he contracted E. coli from the petting zoo at the fair. And even though his family doesn’t plan to return to the fair in the fall, McNair says he’s glad to see new precautions being planned.
“People go to enjoy the fair, and to have a good time at it, not to come have their life at risk."