Visiting a farm, animal attraction or petting zoo is lots of fun, but it's important to remember that animals can carry a number of infections that can be harmful to people. Common types of illness include infection with cryptosporidium parvum, E.coli O157 and salmonella.
All of these bacteria live in the gut of the animals. Infections are caused either by touching animals in the petting and feeding areas, or by coming into contact with animal droppings on contaminated surfaces around the farm. These harmful bacteria can get accidentally passed to your mouth by putting hands on faces or fingers in mouths before washing them thoroughly. It only takes a small number of the bacteria to cause infection.
Advice on visiting a farm safely
|Do check that cuts, grazes etc. on children's hands are covered with waterproof dressings.
||Do not put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while petting animals or walking round the farm.
Do wash your hands thoroughly with liquid soap and warm water and dry with paper towels:
- after you have touched animals, fences or other surfaces in animal areas
- before eating or drinking
|Do not use handwipes instead of washing hands with liquid soap and warm water. Handwipes do not remove E.coli O157 in dirt.
|Do remove and clean boots or shoes that might have become soiled and clean pushchair wheels. Then wash your hands thoroughly with liquid soap and warm water and dry with paper towels.
||Do not eat or drink while touching animals or walking round the farm. This includes not eating sweets, crisps or chewing gum.
|Do supervise children closely to ensure that they wash their hands thoroughly.
||Do not kiss farm animals or allow children to put their faces close to animals.
|Do eat and drink in picnic areas or cafés only.
||Do not eat anything that has fallen on the floor.
|Do avoid contact with sheep and lambs while pregnant (see below).
||Do not taste or eat any animal foods or unpasteurised produce, such as milk or cheese.
Is it safe to visit a farm while pregnant?
If you are pregnant, you may put yourself and your unborn baby at risk of infection if you come into close contact with sheep that have recently given birth, newborn lambs, or other newborn farm animals or new mother animals such as cows or goats. Infections can happen at any time of year, not just in the spring.
Although the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with an infected animal is usually extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks and take precautions.