Fatal Tennessee E. Coli Outbreak Blamed on Petting Farm’s Goats

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: mdmilliman

According to a recent report, one child has passed away, and several others fell ill following a tragic E. coli outbreak over the summer at Tennessee’s largest petting zoo and park.

The devastating outbreak at Lucky Ladd Farms was responsible for sending two children to the hospital. Unfortunately, one of them, a 2-year-old, died due to contracting the bacteria.

Per reports from the TN Department of Health, the outbreak began with two baby goats at Lucky Ladd Farms in Rutherford County. MTSU Microbiology Professor Dr. Mary Farone revealed that most mammals, including humans, carry E. coli in their intestines.

The professor added that some animals carry types of E. coli that are pathogenic for us, mostly in creatures such as cows and goats.

In this instance, it was due to Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STEC.) This strain lives in the gastrointestinal tract of ruminant animals such as cattle, goats, sheep, deer, and elk. However, it doesn’t make them sick.

“For them, it’s almost a part of their normal gut bacteria; whereas, for us and other types of animals, it can cause disease. These bacteria make a toxin, and that toxin basically induces diarrhea in your intestines,” she explained.

The official report revealed one child landed in the hospital after attending the camp. In addition, the 2-year-old picked it up from a family member who went to Lucky Ladd Farms.

Sadly, the 2-year-old ended up developing Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). According to Dr. Farone, E. coli tends to present worse in children. Tragically, the child passed away as a result of the illness.

“They have about a 15% probability of developing Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome — which is damage to the kidney — and that’s less in adults,” Farone explained.

One child dies, others fall ill from E. Coli following petting zoo trip

After the health department’s investigation, Lucky Ladd Farms closed the facility over the summer. They later collaborated with the state to collect dozens of samples to determine where the bacteria originated.

“That is a little mysterious that just the two goats had it and didn’t find it in the adult’s population, so where did it come from?” Farone asked.

Farone believes an older goat had it and passed it on to the babies. While she thinks it can be educational for children to get a first-hand look into the agricultural world. However, she says it’s essential for children to wash their hands properly whenever they touch an animal or even come into their vicinity.

“Even if they don’t pet the animal, but holding on to fences or touching things around the animal’s environment — they should wipe and wash their hands,” Farone explained.

Lucky Ladd Farms euthanized the goats in question. Now the farm has reopened to the public.

In addition, Lucky Ladd Farms tore down the barn where the goats were housed and got rid of the soil in the area so that sunlight could kill any potential bacterium left over.