Public Health England North West is urging visitors to petting farms this spring to make sure they take care with hand hygiene to avoid illness.
Even when they appear clean and healthy, many animals can carry parasites and germs that can affect young children, such as E.coli 0157 or cryptosporidium, and evidence shows those cases can peak in the spring – partly associated with children handling animals and feeding lambs at petting farms.
To help avoid unnecessary illness, PHE North West wants to remind everyone visiting farms to wash their hands thoroughly using soap and water after they have been in contact with animals and before eating or drinking.
Dr Anjila Shah, Consultant in Health Protection for PHE North West, said: “Thousands of people in the North West visit farm attractions each year and the number of people who become ill is proportionally very small, however, many cases of illness could be avoided by practicing good hand hygiene.
“People may be tempted to use hand gels and wipes during a farm visit and after touching animals, but although they remove visible dirt and contamination, they may not be effective in removing the germs found on farms.
“It is vitally important to remember that hands should be washed well with soap and water, especially before consuming food and drinks. By maintaining good hand hygiene it can help avoid illness and enjoy a fun day out.”
A quick reminder of dos and don’ts when visiting petting farms:
• Do not put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while petting animals or walking round the farm.
• Do not allow children to put their faces close to farm animals or kiss the animals.
• Do not eat or drink while touching animals or walking round the farm. This includes not eating sweets, crisps or chewing gum.
• Do not eat anything that has fallen on the floor.
• Do not use gels or wipes instead of washing hands with soap and water. Gels and wipes do not remove the germs found on farms
• Do wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you have touched animals, fences or other surfaces in animal areas.
• Do wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating or drinking
• Do remove and clean boots or shoes that might have become soiled and clean pushchair wheels. Then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
• Do supervise children closely to ensure that they wash their hands thoroughly.
• Do eat and drink in designated picnic areas or cafes only.
For more information see our leaflet about Avoiding Infections on Farm Visits
Photo: Courtesy of Birhanb – Wikipedia