updated 3/24/2005 7:31:07 AM ET 2005-03-24T12:31:07

Five people who attended last month’s state fair had E. coli infections that stem from the same strain of bacteria, health investigators confirmed.

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A sixth patient who also attended last month’s fair in Raleigh had a different genetic strain of the infection, but health officials said Thursday that they think the case is related.

State health officials are investigating 38 E. coli cases. Most of the patients are children, including three who developed a serious complication that can cause kidney failure. The most common link among victims is that some visited the petting zoo exhibit.

Video: E. Coli outbreak Investigators said at least four cases are unrelated to the fair outbreak — two in people who got sick before the fair opened and two in a family who lives on a farm.

“Every day we get more information,” said Dr. Jeffrey Engel, state epidemiologist. “If we can get more DNA types that match the five and they all had fair contact, we almost have a closed case. But we have to wait for results.”

The E. coli bacterium can pass to humans who eat contaminated meat or contact animals, manure or contaminated surfaces.

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