Three young Twin Cities children are recovering from E. coli bacteria infections, one with serious complications, after visiting a pumpkin farm in the northwestern exurb of Dayton, the Minnesota Department of Health said Saturday.

The children, ages 15 months to 7 years old, became ill after petting cows and goats at Dehn’s Pumpkins, which hasn’t had any previous issues, epidemiologist Carrie Klumb said.

“This could happen at any venue with farm animals,” she said.

Minnesota has had 119 cases of E. coli so far this year — on pace to match last year’s 125 cases but down from the 146 cases reported in 2011, when one person died.

This week, one of the three children affected has been hospitalized. One other child and an adult are also being tested after reporting similar symptoms after visiting the farm Oct. 18.

At Dehn’s Pumpkins, which is cooperating with investigators, the animals are being blocked off from the public while the rest of the farm and pumpkin patch remains open.

“We are all very sorry to hear of the reported cases and wish for a healthy recovery for those affected,” owner Bruce Dehn said in a statement. “… [We’ll] continue to protect our valued customers as much as possible. There are plenty of activities for customers to enjoy without going near the animals.”

Health officials are continuing to investigate if other people have become ill from the farm this month. The child who is hospitalized has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious complication of the E. coli O157:H7 infection that can result in kidney failure, though it only happens in 5 percent of E. coli cases, Klumb said. Of those cases, 5 percent can be fatal, but she said there’s no indication this one is deadly. The other two children are recovering at home.

‘Just wash your hands’

All three children visited the farm Oct. 12 or 13 and became ill on Oct. 16 or 18. E. coli O157:H7 is common in animals like cattle and goats, and Klumb said outbreaks like this with farm animals happen nearly every year in Minnesota.

“This isn’t a unique case,” she said. “We think [visiting farm animals is] a great experience with children, so we’re not saying that it shouldn’t happen, just wash your hands afterwards.”

E. coli is usually gotten from touching animal feces found on an animal’s fur, saliva or even surfaces like a fence railing. Symptoms usually include stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools, and a low-grade or no fever, according to the Health Department.

Anyone who visited Dehn’s Pumpkins since Oct. 12 and has E. coli symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately, the Health Department said, and shouldn’t be treated with antibiotics.