Published On: Mon, Jun 24th, 2013

UK health officials advise public of risks associated with petting farms following a dozen ‘crypto’ outbreaks

Over the past two decades, the average number cases of the parasite, cryptosporidium reported to UK health authorities is around 80. However, in 2013, Public Health England (PHE) is reporting between January and May 2013, there have been 12 outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis associated with petting farms across England affecting around 130 people.

This fact is prompting health officials to remind the public to practice good hand hygiene when visiting petting farms and petting zoos.

Other common microscopic pathogens associated with petting farms include E. coli and Salmonella.

Dr Bob Adak, head of gastrointestinal diseases at PHE, said:

“Visiting a farm is a very enjoyable experience for both children and adults alike but it’s important to remember that contact with farm animals carries a risk of infection because of the microorganisms – or germs – they naturally carry.

“These outbreaks of illness serve as a reminder for anyone visiting a petting farm of the need to wash their hands thoroughly using soap and water after they have handled animals or been in their surroundings – particularly before eating. Although we can avoid obvious dirt there will be millions of invisible bacteria spread all around the farm which can get onto our hands.

“Ahead of the seasonal rise in cases of E. coli linked to petting farms we want to remind people not to rely on hand gels and wipes for protection because these are not suitable against the sort of germs found on farms. Children should also be closely supervised to ensure they wash their hands properly, as they are more at risk of serious illness.

“By being aware and by doing these simple things we can help to avoid illness and enjoy a fun day out.”

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite (a tiny organism) that causes an infection called cryptosporidiosis affecting people and cattle.


Cryptosporidium oocysts Photo/CDC

The most common symptom is watery diarrhea, which can range from mild to severe.

Although it’s most frequently seen in young children, cryptosporidium can affect anyone. People with weak immune systems are likely to be most seriously affected.

Cryptosporidium is found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with infectedhuman or animal feces. Transmission occurs through animal-to-human or human-to-human contact. Consuming contaminated water or food, swimming in contaminated water and children visiting petting zoos are common ways people contract the parasite.

It is typically a self-limiting illness in otherwise healthy individuals.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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