With the onset of warmer weather, visits to petting farms are popular with families and early learning settings.
But parents and carers are being urged to maintain top hand hygiene after touching farm animals and the surrounding areas.
Young children are at particular risk of gastrointestinal illness following farm visits due to their lower levels of hand hygiene.
Sickness and diarrhea , along with the potentially fatal infection E. coli 0157, can be avoided as long as everyone washes their hands properly.
Head of the gastrointestinal diseases department at the HPA, Dr Bob Adak says: “ Farm visits can be a very enjoyable experience for both children and adults and a few simple precautions will help avoid illness and ensure everyone enjoys a fun day out.
“Children need to be carefully supervised to ensure that they don’t put their hands in their mouth directly after petting the animals, which naturally carry germs . W hen everyone has finished petting and handling the animals they need to wash their hands thoroughly using soap and water and to dry them before eating.”
He is also reminding parents that hand gels or wipes will not completely remove E.coli or Cryptosporidium from hands.
“This is why washing the hands thoroughly with soap and water is so important,” he says. “It is the only way to effectively remove the bacteria and reduce the risk of becoming unwell. ”