Dearne residents are being urged to remember ‘hand hygiene’ if you visit an animal petting farm during the summer holidays.
Rotherham Council is reminding visitors to any attraction with animals to wash their hands properly afterwards and not to rely on hand gels - the advice of Public Health England (PHE).
The animal health officer, together with environmental health officers from the council, are urging adults to properly supervise children at all times, particularly when they wash their hands, to ensure they avoid the various bugs that can be picked up from petting animals.
PHE says that between January and May this year there have already been around 130 people affected in a dozen outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis associated with petting farms across England.
A spokesperson said: “Over the past 20 years, an average of around 80 cases of cryptosporidium infection linked to visits to petting farms have been reported to PHE each year.
“This is out of a total of around two million visits to the 1,000 plus farm attractions in the UK, with peak visitor times during school and public holidays.
“Cryptosporidium is a parasite that can be found in soil, water, food or on any surface that has been contaminated with human or animal faeces. The symptoms of cryptosporidiosis are typically watery diarrhoea and stomach pains.
“There is no specific treatment for the illness which is usually self-limiting, although it is important that anyone with the illness keeps hydrated.”
In addition, cases of E. coli linked to farm attractions are at their highest levels between June and October. An infection with E. coli can lead to mild gastrointestinal illness or in serious cases it can cause bloody diarrhoea which can lead to severe illness.
A spokesperson for Rotherham Council said: “The authority will be writing to owners and managers of petting farms and similar premises advising them of the need to ensure that they follow the industry code of practice on how to protect visitors and staff from illness and to ensure they are doing enough to comply with the law.”