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Next, they used statewide laboratory records going back several years to see how E. coli 0157 infection rates correlated with fair dates in each county.

As suspected, the infection rate for each county was much higher during and immediately after a fair. "Significantly more cases occurred during the two-week period following the county fair than in any other two-week period," says Crump.

E. coli 0157 infection, while never pleasant for anyone, can be deadly in children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. But besides avoiding county fairs altogether, what can you do to protect yourself and your children?

According to Crump, "the most important thing people can do is make sure you are not eating around animals, and that you wash your hands immediately after petting any animals."

Putting your hands in or around your mouth after contact with animals is a very good way to get sick, he tells WebMD.

Crump does not recommend staying home or even avoiding food and beverages at county fairs.

"What happens at one fair is not necessarily happening at all fairs," he says. Chances are, if you heed practice good hygiene and avoid obviously unsafe vendors, you will be fine.

In an effort to keep the public healthy and avoid future outbreaks, his team "will be asking those responsible for water distribution at fairgrounds to take a look at them and see if there's something that needs improving."

Furthermore he says, fair officials, staff, and visitors should keep in mind that "the preparation, serving, and consumption of food should be done in a separate area from the animal area." he says.

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