The UK Health Security Agency is reminding families and visitors to the South Hams and the South West of the simple steps they can take to make sure they enjoy visits to farms and petting zoos safely.

To get the best out of the holiday period and keep safe, UKHSA South West is reminding people to take a little extra care to avoid becoming unwell.

At this time of year, we typically see an increase in a number of gastro-intestinal infections such as cryptosporidium and E.coli associated with activities such as farm visits. These infections can cause diarrhoea and stomach pains, and in serious cases can lead to severe illness.

People can get infected within the farm setting mainly in two ways – 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. Therefore, visitors to farms should ensure they wash their hands after their visit, especially before eating and after removing dirty shoes. Children should always be supervised when washing their hands as they are more at risk of serious illness.

Sarah Bird, Consultant in Health Protection for UKHSA South West, said:

“Visiting a farm is a really fun day out which is an enjoyable and educational experience for many people, particularly children. However, it’s important to remember that farm animals can be the source of several bugs that can be passed from animals to humans and cause illness. Some can be particularly serious for children or pregnant women.

“Infections can be picked up from the animal’s body, its poo or from areas where animals have recently been. If the germs are on your hands, you could accidentally pass them to your mouth. You can’t see the germs, so your hands may appear clean.”

If you feel unwell or have symptoms within two weeks of visiting a farm, contact your GP.