Visitor attractions involving animals
Outbreaks of E. coli infection associated with visitors to an open farm have been widely reported in the media. Such problems are not new - there have been sporadic cases on open farms for many decades.
Following this, there have been a number of unrelated, random cases of infection at other open farms throughout the country and each outbreak has resulted in the voluntary closure of part, or all, of the visitor farm attractions.
Whilst our Environmental Health team encourages you to visit such attractions, we also strongly recommend taking sensible precautions to help reduce the risk of illnesses such as E. coli. Our advice to families visiting an open farm is:
- You must assume that all cattle, sheep and goats are infected with E. coli O157 bacteria, even if the animals look clean and healthy. You can pick up E. coli O157 by touching animals, fences and other surfaces and accidentally transfer the bacteria to your mouth.
- If you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, this will greatly reduce the chance of infection. Remember to wash your hands after touching an animal, before eating or drinking, and after removing clothing and shoes worn on the farm.
- Young children are particularly vulnerable to E. coli O157 infection and are more likely to suffer serious illness as a result. Children should be closely supervised to ensure that they wash their hands properly after contact with animals.
Health Protection Agency, advice for infection prevention
Understanding and managing the risks from E. coli O157 in an open farm context (PDF File, 407kb)
Preventing or controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions (PDF File, 245kb)