FAMILIES are being reminded to stay safe when visiting farms and petting zoos during Easter. 

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) South West is reminding people to take extra care to avoid becoming unwell. 

UKHSA South West has said at this time of year there is a 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.

According to the organisation, you can get infected either by touching animals in the petting and feeding areas or coming into contact with animal droppings on surfaces around the farm. 

UKHSA South West are encouraging visitors to wash their hands after visiting these places, especially before eating and after removing shoes, to prevent bacteria being passed to your mouth. 

Sarah Bird, consultant in health protect 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.

“Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after you have had contact with animals and before eating any food will reduce the risk of infection. Do not use gels or wipes instead of soap and water - gels and wipes do not remove bugs in dirt. Farms provide hand washing facilities, so we encourage people to make use of these to ensure the only thing you take away from your visit is happy memories.”

The UKHSA South West has issued the following advice: 

  • 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 picnic areas or cafes only.
  • Do not put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while petting animals or walking round the farm.
  • Do not kiss farm animals or allow children to put their faces close to 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 bugs in dirt.
  • If you are planning a school or group visit to a farm, you also need to make sure that you’ve considered all the risks and taken steps to manage them. Guidance is available to help schools and teachers do this.