San Diego

Families of E. Coli Victim, Patients File Claims Against Fair Operator

The parents of the toddler who died after getting E. coli at the San Diego County Fair and two other families whose kids contracted the disease have filed claims against the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the state agency that runs the fair and the petting zoo at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Three separate claims were filed by the parents of Jedidiah Cabezuela, the 2-year-old who died last month after the E. coli strain he contracted ultimately shut down his kidneys and killed him, the family of 2-year-old Cristiano Lopez and his mother who both contracted E. coli and recovered, and the family of 6-year-old Ryan Sadrabadi who also recovered.

The claims allege there were no signs posted or warnings from fair employees about the possible presence of E. coli and say the hand-washing stations were not accessible to kids.

The victims' attorney Ben Koughlin says the state failed to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards to protect people at the petting zoo.

"Why did we have to lose Jedi? Why did the Lopez family have to get sick? These are known facts: E. coli can exist and be toxic from animals to people. And so if that is known, and these steps can be taken in the future, why didn't that already happen?" he said.

In total, the county reported 11 confirmed or probable cases of E. coli linked to patients who visited the fair’s petting zoo.

When the first few cases were reported fair officials held a press conference and shut down the petting zoo.

According to the county, Cabezuela visited the fair on June 15, became sick on June 19 and developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe complication of E. coli infection that can lead to kidney failure, and died on June 24.

The 2019 San Diego County Fair ran for 27 days, from May 31 to the Fourth of July. The fair is the largest annual event in San Diego County, drawing approximately 1.5 million visitors each season.

Koughlin said the county is still investigating more possible cases.

Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to E. coli should contact their doctor and be sure to inform them of any recent contact with animals, the CDC says. More information on prevention, symptoms and treatment of E. coli can be found on the CDC website.

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