AN investigation is under way after four children were taken to hospital after contracting E. coli while feeding lambs at a petting farm in the Ribble Valley.
The children had visited a lamb feeding event at Huntley’s Country Store, near Salmesbury, over recent weeks.
One child has been discharged while the other three are still said to be in hospital. Customers have now been banned from touching animals at the farm as Public Health England look into the outbreak.
Dr Ken Lamden, Consultant in Health Protection from the Cumbria and Lancashire’s PHE Centre, said: “Investigations are still on going and all public health measures have been put in place. The owners are co-operating fully and we are working closely with them and with colleagues across health and local authorities.
“Symptoms of E.coli O157 include bloody diarrhoea, which can be serious, or milder forms of the infection which are usually self-limiting and clear within seven days. Symptoms of E.coli O157 include bloody diarrhoea, which can be serious, or milder forms of the infection which are usually self-limiting and clear within seven days.
“It is believed the outbreak began before Easter. Anyone who visited the lambing event between 29th March and 24th April and who is unwell with diarrhoea, bloody diarrhoea or passing less urine than usual should seek medical advice or contact NHS 111.
Dr Lamden added: “The best protection against E.coli O157 and most infections is thorough hand-washing. This is particularly important after contact with animals, after going to the toilet, after handling raw meat products and always before eating.
“This incident is an important reminder for parents to follow strict hand washing with their families when visiting petting farms or handling animals. Although many parents may carry alcohol gels with them, this should be an addition to hand washing with soap and water and not a substitute.
“Ahead of the May Bank Holiday weekend, we urge families to enjoy their farm visits safely by ensuring good hand hygiene after touching farm animals or their surroundings. Outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness associated with contact with farm animals, peak in the spring and summer as this coincides with schools holidays when visits to petting farms tend to be more popular, although outbreaks can occur at other times. We wouldn’t wish to discourage farm visits, but people need to remember that a range of infections can be passed on through contact with animals unless care is taken to avoid them.
“It is very important for parents and children to make full use of the washing facilities that are provided at open farms. They should wash their hands thoroughly after contact with the animals, before eating and before putting fingers near their mouths.”