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Children should wash their hands after touching farm animals and their surroundings at petting farms, the Health Protection Agency has warned.
Outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness associated with contact with farm animals tend to peak in the spring and summer petting farm season. The route of transmission of these illnesses, which include E. coli O157 and Cryptosporidium, involves direct contact with animals in petting and feeding areas plus contact with their droppings on contaminated surfaces.
Dr Bob Adak, head of the gastrointestinal diseases department at the HPA, said: “Farm visits can be a very enjoyable experience for both children and adults and a few simple precautions will help avoid illness and ensure everyone enjoys a fun day out.
“Children need to be carefully supervised to ensure that they don’t put their hands in their mouths directly after petting the animals, which naturally carry germs. When everyone has finished petting and handling the animals they need to wash their hands thoroughly using soap and water and to dry them before eating.
“It’s also very important to remember that hand gels or wipes are not effective at completely removing bugs such as E.coli or Cryptosporidium from soiled hands. This is why washing the hands thoroughly with soap and water is so important - it is the only way to effectively remove the bacteria and reduce the risk of becoming unwell.”
Figures from the HPA’s national surveillance system show that there were 61 outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness associated with farm visits between1992 and 2011, affecting a total of 1,238 people. Around half were caused by E. coli O157 and most of the rest were caused by Cryptosporidium, though a handful of Salmonella cases were also reported.
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Tork is a brand of SCA, Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget. SCA offers personal care products, tissue, packaging, publication papers and solid wood products in more than around 100 countries. For more information, visit www.sca.com
© 2011 SCA Hygiene Products
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