RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Health and agriculture officials announced Thursday a number of steps to prevent a repeat of the E.coli outbreak that sickened 25 visitors to the N.C. State Fair in 2011.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and other officials announced changes that will take effect in and around the three main livestock buildings during the 2012 fair. The State Fair Study Commission recommended changes aimed at keeping people and competition livestock separated as much as possible without prohibiting people from seeing the animals.
New traffic patterns primarily will affect buildings where livestock are housed or shown – the Kelley Building, Jim Graham Building and Expo Center – and the area around them. The recommendations included changing the location of animals within buildings and how animals and people enter and exit buildings.
Barriers will prevent fairgoers from getting close to livestock in some areas where previously people could get within touching distance. Visitors will be barred entirely from the Kelley Building for all but a few days of the fair. An investigation tied last year’s illnesses to the Kelley Building, which houses livestock during the fair.
In some areas, pedestrian traffic will be shifted away from animals.
Ofificials also announced that food vendors are being relocated from the area between the Graham Building and Expo Center.
Wake County Community Health Director Sue Lynn Ledford, a member of the study commission, said State Fair visitors can avoid illness by leaving strollers outside buildings containing animals, and by following instructions on signs indicating that animals should not be touched.
“While there is no way to completely eliminate the potential for exposure, the measures being implemented will minimize the risk,” said Dr. Megan Davies, state epidemiologist with the N.C. Division of Public Health. “We also want to encourage the public to do their part as well by following traffic patterns at the fair and using common sense measures to keep themselves and their families healthy.”
The fair is investing an estimated $206,000 in the changes and related projects. The money will come from State Fair revenues.
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