Cleveland County Fair opens year after outbreak

SHELBY, N.C. (AP) — Officials say increased safety measures are in place as the Cleveland County Fair opens a year after a E. coli outbreak.

Health department staff and volunteers were at hand-washing stations, demonstrating proper hand-washing techniques and walked through the crowds reminding people to wash their hands during Thursday’s opening day.

Last year’s outbreak resulted in 106 E. coli cases and the death of a toddler.

Health officials said the petting zoo at the fair was the sources of the outbreak. This year, there is no petting zoo or any exhibits where people come in contact with animals.

There are more signs and fencing and clear separation of the animal exhibit area.

Seven lawsuits by families of victims have been consolidated in Gaston County and are being reviewed by a judge. No trial date has been set.

Officials say 165,000 people attended the fair last year. Interim Fair Manager Bobby Jenks hopes to hit a record attendance of 200,000 people this year.

Cleveland County Health Director Dorothea Wyant said with the preventive measures in place and with educating the public on the importance of hand-washing “we are confident that the 2013 Cleveland County Fair will be a safer event for participants.”

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