31 fall ill after disease outbreak linked to petting farm


More than 30 people have fallen ill after a disease outbreak linked to a petting farm, health officials said.

Twenty nine cases of cryptosporidiosis, which causes diarrhoea, were confirmed in people who had visited Swithens Farm in Rothwell, Leeds, since the start of March, according to Public Health England (PHE).

The agency also confirmed two cases of e.coli, which also causes diarrhoea and can lead to kidney problems in serious cases.

The farm's owner said it had put in place measures to remind visitors to wash their hands after touching or feeding animals.

Dr Mike Gent, PHE's consultant in communicable disease control, said: "We are working closely with Leeds City Council and (the) Animal and Plant Health Agency to investigate further and to advise the premises concerned.

"At the request of Environmental Health Services the premises closed voluntarily. This was followed up with enforcement action to prohibit reopening until a number of matters had been addressed".

He added: "It's important to remember when visiting a petting farm that contact with farm animals carries a risk of infection because of the bacteria they naturally carry. It's very easy to touch animals or surfaces which carry bacteria and then people, especially children, put their fingers in or near their mouths without first washing their hands adequately and they become infected.

"It's really important when visiting these sorts of attractions to wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water after you have been in contact with animals and especially before eating or drinking anything.

"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."

Swithens Farm has been run by the Broadhead family for more than 20 years, according to its website.

Angela Broadhead, who runs it with husband Ian, told the Press Association: "We are still open. We have put more procedures in place, more signage and sinks to make sure people wash their hands.

"We are doing everything to ensure they are kept healthy and not at risk."