OXFORD — Officials at the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention are hoping the federal government can determine whether two local toddlers, including one who later died, were exposed to E. coli bacteria while petting farm animals at the Oxford County Fair in September.

“The Maine CDC’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory did many tests and we were not able to make this link,” Maine CDC spokesman John Martins said. “U.S. CDC’s labs have the ability to do additional, more comprehensive tests — that’s what they are doing now.”

Colton Guay, 20 months old, of Poland died at Maine Medical Center in Portland in early October after contracting HUS, or hemolytic uremic syndrome. The boy’s father, Jon Guay, has said he and his wife, Beth, feared their son, Colton, and 17-month-old Myles Herschaft of Auburn, who has since recovered, may have contracted HUS after being exposed to E. coli bacteria while petting farm animals at the Oxford fair.

Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting but can progress to kidney failure, brain seizures and death.

The parents met while doctors attended their sons at the Portland hospital.

The Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the state veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry began an investigation into the possible link with the fair in late September. Initial laboratory tests determined the presence of Shiga toxins, which are associated with E. coli.

Martins said various specimens were taken at the Oxford Fairgrounds, including wood shavings, for testing.

It is unknown how long it will take to complete the tests at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, he said.

“The U.S. CDC prioritizes tests from across the country. I do know that they are moving this work forward, but we don’t have any set timetable,” he said.

Martins said to his knowledge no other cases of  E.Coli infection were reported during the agricultural fair season, which runs from July into October in Maine.

The local cases were, however, the second and third case of HUS reported this year in Androscoggin County. In June, a 2-year-old unnamed girl from Androscoggin County reportedly experienced kidney failure. Her father believes she contracted E. coli bacteria during a visit to a York Beach zoo and amusement park. Three cases of HUS were also reported in York County this year, state officials have said.

Martins said it is important to know that farm animals are only one source of E. coli bacteria.

“I think it’s important to note the E. coli can come from many sources,” Martins said.

Martins provided the following prevention tips:

•  Wash hands after exposure to animals or their environment (at farms, petting zoos, fairs and backyards). Soap and water is best; hand sanitizer can be used when soap and water are not available. Wash hands prior to eating, especially after contact with animals and their environment.

• People with diarrhea should stay home from work, school and other activities. Persons in high-risk occupations such as health care, food handling and day care attendees/staff require two negative specimens collected at least 24 hours apart, 48 hours after any antibiotic treatment.

• Avoid swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds and streams and backyard “kiddie” pools.

• Wash fruits and vegetables with clean water and cook and reheat meats to proper temperatures, especially ground beef and other beef products and avoid unpasteurized (raw) dairy products.

• Practice good food safety. Wash hands and surfaces with soapy water, keep raw poultry/meat/fish/eggs away from other foods in grocery carts and at home. Use separate cutting boards. Don’t reuse plates/utensils. Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry and eggs at appropriate temperatures.

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