As the spring and summer season for farm visits gets underway, the county council’s public health team has issued a reminder of the importance of good hand hygiene, particularly for children, to avoid picking up infections.
It is important for anyone visiting a petting farm to wash their hands thoroughly using liquid soap and warm running water and to dry them with disposable paper towels after they have handled or been near animals. It is particularly important to wash hands before eating.
In all, there are about two million visits each year to the 1,000-plus farm attractions in the UK, with peak visits during school and public holidays.
Over the past 20 years, an average of 80 cases of cryptosporidium infection linked to visits to petting farms have been reported to Public Health England each year.
Cryptosporidium is one of a number of bugs that can be picked up at a petting farm. Other common infections are caused by e.coli O157 and salmonella. Cases of e.coli O157 linked to farm attractions are at their highest between June and October.
People generally become infected in one of two ways – by touching animals in the petting and feeding areas or by coming into contact with animal droppings on contaminated surfaces. The bacteria can be passed on by putting hands on faces or fingers in mouths before washing them thoroughly. It takes only a small number of the bacteria to cause infection.
Visitors to farms are advised not to rely on hand rubs and wipes for protection, as these do not work against the sort of germs found on farms. Children should be closely supervised to ensure they wash their hands properly, as they are more at risk of serious illness.
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Public Health: It’s a great experience for families to visit our wonderful farms.
By following simple hygiene when visiting petting farms, people can ensure that their visit is both enjoyable and safe.
The public health team has produced a factsheet, Avoiding Infection on Farm Visits, which offers guidance and information. Download it at www.northyorks.gov.uk/article/28297/Public-health-factsheets