4-Year-Old Dies of E. Coli & a Petting Zoo Is Being Investigated

Kade and Kallan Maresh
Samantha Olinger/Go Fund Me

Petting zoos are typically thought of as safe, child-friendly environments, but you may want to take precautions before you make your next visit to one. Sadly, authorities are investigating a Minnesota petting zoo after two siblings contracted a dangerous strain of E. coli that claimed one child's life and has left the other hospitalized.


According to Joseph and Tyffani Maresh's GoFundMe page, last Sunday their children Kade and Kallan started suffering from "non-stop bloody diarrhea and vomiting." After several failed trips to the ER, the worried parents checked their kids into the Children's Hospital at the University of Minnesota, where a blood test revealed that things had taken a turn for the worse.

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In a rare turn of events, both children had contracted a shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria and were diagnosed with acute kidney failure. In 4-year-old Kallan, the infection traveled to her neurological system, affecting her heart and brain, and sadly, she succumbed to her illness. Her brother Kade, who is 5, is still in the hospital fighting for his life, though his blood work has yet to show any improvement.

Authorities can't say for sure where the children contracted their illness, but animals at a petting zoo the kids recently visited have been taken off display out of "an abundance of caution." Though infections linked to petting zoos are rare, the Humane Society warns there are more than 75 diseases humans can contract from animals, including E. Coli. Earlier this year, two Texas boys spent weeks in the hospital after contracting an E. Coli bacteria their family claims came from a local petting zoo.

E. Coli can be a harmless bacteria that "occurs naturally in the intestines of healthy people and animals." Unfortunately, certain strains of the bacteria do cause illness, and animals are typically carriers for these harmful strains. E. Coli is most often transmitted via contaminated food or drinks, but it can also spread through animal feces or by touching an animal that has been infected.

"Normal, healthy well-cared for animals can carry germs that can make people sick, and you can't tell by looking at animals which one may be shedding a germ and which one isn't," Joni Scheftel, a state public health veterinarian, tells Fox 9 News.

If you visit a petting zoo, Scheftel warns you should always wash your hands after handling animals, and be sure not to bring any food, drinks, bottles, or pacifiers into facilities where you'll come into close contact with animals. 

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The Maresh family have established GoFundMe and CaringBridge pages and since Monday have received $55,000 in donations to offshoot Kade's medical expenses. Though this has been a tragic week for this Minnesota family, knowing that strangers can be this generous must give them incredible strength and courage.

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