Cleveland Co. fair making changes to prevent E. coli contamination

by: Ken Lemon Updated:

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CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. —

Thursday, Channel 9 checked with health and fair officials from the Cleveland County fair, to see what is in place for the fair this year after more than 100 people got sick last year.

A 2-year-old died during an E. coli outbreak at the Cleveland County fair, and more than 100 fairgoers were sick with E. coli.

The contamination was traced back to the petting zoo.

The interim manager said he not only expects a safe fair this year, but expects to have a larger crowd than last year.

This year the fair will still have animals, but people will not be able to touch them.

Hand washing stations will also be easily accessible.

“Everything is going well,” said Bobby Jenks, interim manager. “We are doing everything we need to do, above and beyond.”

Health officials told Eyewitness News they are at the fairgrounds almost daily making sure that fair workers follow the recommendations of a task force established after the E. coli outbreak.

One change is the gates.

Visitors will not be able to touch animals that will be placed in the field.

Health officials believe contact with animals is how the contamination started.

This year, people visiting the animals will have to pass hand washing stations to get in and out.

Health officials also say they will have workers during peak hours, reminding people to wash their hands and monitoring animal exhibits.

They will also have the huge warning signs at all entrances and smaller signs all over the fair grounds.

Jenks said the rain last year helped to spread the contamination, and thinks the good weather this year will make the event safer and bring in more visitors.

The interim fair manager also said he wants to bring back petting zoos in the future, but wants a new building designated to make it more difficult to spread E. coli.

The Cleveland County fair opens in one week.