26 May 2023
UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) North West is advising families of the simple steps they can take to make sure they safely enjoy visits to farms and petting zoos this summer.
Open Farm Sunday is coming up on 11 June and public health experts are reminding visitors that there are small things they can do to reduce the risk of gastro-intestinal infections such as Salmonella, Cryptosporidium and E.coli, which can be passed from farm animals to humans and cause illness.
UKHSA health protection teams have already seen some outbreaks up and down the country and so are urging anyone planning a trip to the farm, to remember the importance of thoroughly and frequently washing hands to avoid getting bugs which can make you seriously ill. Once infected, you can also pass the bugs on to other people who can also become unwell.
Dr Merav Kliner, Regional Deputy Director for UKHSA NW, said:
“Visiting a farm is a really fun day out which is an enjoyable and educational experience for many people, particularly children. However, it’s important to remember that farm animals can be the source of several bugs that can be passed from animals to humans and make you unwell. Some can be particularly serious for children or pregnant women.
“Infections can be picked up from the animal’s body, its poo or from areas where animals have recently been. If the germs are on your hands, you could accidentally pass them to your mouth. You can’t see the germs, so your hands may appear clean.
“Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after you have had contact with animals and before eating any food will reduce the risk of infection. Do not use gels or wipes instead of soap and water - gels and wipes do not remove bugs in dirt. Farms provide hand washing facilities, so we encourage people to make use of these to ensure the only thing they take away from their visit is happy memories.”
Annabel Shackleton, LEAF Open Farm Sunday Manager, said:
“We want people to continue to enjoy visiting farms and agricultural events safely. This means making time after touching animals, pens or fencing, to wash your hands thoroughly with liquid soap and running water and dry them with disposable towels. Adults should always supervise children to ensure that they wash their hands properly and grow up learning that clean hands are essential before eating! Anti-bac hand gel is not a replacement for washing hands, especially not when spending time around animals. If a dummy drops on the ground it will need sterilising, and boots, shoes and pushchairs need to be washed down too when leaving a farm. Remember these simple things to ensure your farm visit is both enjoyable and safe.”
Another thing to be aware of is drinking unpasteurised milk or eating unpasteurised ice cream. The Food Standards Agency advises people not to consume raw milk, especially people with a weaker immune system, pregnant women, the elderly and infants/small children, as it may contain harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Open Farm Sunday (11 June) will see many farms open their gates to the public which might not normally do so. For more details, including which farms are open, visit: Homepage - Open Farm Sunday
Public Health England
Notes to editors
What to do when visiting a farm
Following the simple rules listed below will help to keep you and your children safe from infections that may be found on open farms. Pregnant women need to take particular care as infections acquired from animals can be harmful to them and their unborn babies.
What should I do if I feel unwell after a farm visit?
If you or anyone in your group feels unwell or has any symptoms, for example, is sick or has diarrhoea within two weeks of visiting a farm, contact your GP or call NHS 111 as soon as possible. If you or anyone in your group, particularly a young child, has bloody diarrhoea, seek immediate emergency medical attention.
You should not attend school/childcare/work until you have been free of sickness or diarrhoea for two days. If you are diagnosed with Cryptosporidium you must not go swimming until two weeks after you are free of sickness or diarrhoea as the bugs are resistant to chlorine. Tests may be required to confirm that a child is free from some infections.
Parents should confirm with their health professional whether it is safe for them to return before the child returns to school or nursery.
Further information on zoonoses – infections that spread from animals to humans: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/zoonotic-diseases-zoonoses-guidance-data-and-analysis
Advice for pregnant women on infections that can be transmitted via contact with animals that are or have recently given birth: www.gov.uk/guidance/pregnancy-advice-on-contact-with-animals-that-are-giving-birth
FSA consumer advice on consumption of raw milk
Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness. The FSA considers that pasteurisation (heat treatment) is the best way to address the food safety risk associated with raw drinking milk and cream. However, it recognises that some consumers wish to exercise choice in continuing to have access to raw drinking milk and milk products. Pregnant women, children, the elderly and those who are unwell or have chronic illness are particularly susceptible to disease and that is why we advise them not to consume raw milk.
More information is available here: https://www.food.gov.uk/science/raw-drinking-milk-and-cream