Petting farm being investigated over sickness bug

Some 29 cases of cryptosporidiosis, which causes sickness and diarrhoea, have been confirmed in people who visited the Swithens Farm in Rothwell since the start of March. A small number of possible further cases are being investigated. These are all people who had visited the farm. A further two cases of e.coli, which also causes diarrhoea, have also been confirmed. And a small number of cases of people who have had symptoms, but have since recovered, are being investigated. Once the connection to the farm was discovered the farm owners voluntarily agreed to close the farm while it implemented preventative measures.

Public Health England is leading the investigation into the outbreak with Leeds City Council and the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Dr Mike Gent, consultant in communicable disease control with Public Health England Yorkshire & the Humber, said, “At the request of Environmental Health Services the premises closed voluntarily.  This was followed up with enforcement action to prohibit reopening until a number of matters had been addressed. It’s important to remember when visiting a petting farm that contact with farm animals carries a risk of infection because of the bacteria they naturally carry.”

Angela Broadhead, who runs the farm with her husband, said “We are still open. We have put more procedures in place, more signage and sinks to make sure people wash their hands”

Hand gels and wipes may not eliminate all the germs found on farms so it is best to use soap and water.

Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic disease that is spread via the faecal-oral route and can result in diarrhoea, cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting. Less common side effects are a cough.

Symptoms usually appear five to ten days after infection but can in some cases take up to 28 days to appear.

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