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Toddler Dies After Visiting a County Fair's Petting Zoo

The Short of It

Parents of a 21-month-old Maine toddler say he died after contracting a bacteria at a county fair's petting zoo.

The Lowdown

The Guay family's visit last month to the Oxford County Fair in Maine, which was supposed to be a celebration of the news they were expecting baby number two, may have had an unthinkably tragic consequence. On Monday, the family's 21-month-old son, Colton, died from Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome—and his dad, Jon Guay, believes the tot's illness was a result of visiting the fair's petting zoo.

Within a week of the Guay's petting zoo trip, little Colton became very ill. What started as diarrhea deteriorated to the point of the toddler having to be hospitalized. That's when Colton's parents learned of their son's diagnosis. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome is a kidney condition that causes deterioration of bed blood cells and usually leads to kidney complications—but in Colton's case, it affected his brain. The bacteria E. coli, which can be spread through contaminated food or water, or infected animals or people, is most often to blame when children develop the condition.

In Colton's case, his diagnosis came too late to save him. The toddler, who loved The Lion King, police cars, and tractors, died just a week after his hospitalization, leaving his family understandably devastated.

On his Facebook page, Jon Guay described the nightmare they are living: "It began with severe diarrhea and ended with massive brain seizures that ultimately took his life. Beth and I were with him almost every moment in the hospital and are happy we got to hold and rock him to sleep. I have learned that there is no pain worse than losing the life of your childs. I am relieved to know that he is in a better place free from any further pain or suffering."

While the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says another child who visited the same fair and petting zoo also now has E. coli, the organization has not definitively linked the petting zoo and the illnesses, according to CBS Boston. Still, a CDC spokesperson said in a statement, "As the agricultural fair season winds down, it's important that those who are exposed to animals and their environment wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water. This offers the best protection against E. coli."

The Upshot

Despite their grief, Guay offers this advice to other parents on his Facebook page: "Many people have asked what they can do to help out and I ask that they give their children and/or loved ones a great big hug. Life is precious and can be taken from you without warning. It is truly important to let those closest to you know how much you care about them."

Our thoughts are with the Guays during this unimaginably difficult time.

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