Lambs are cute. Especially when covered in mint sauce. But they also harbour some pretty nasty germs. Studies in the USA have attributed 14% of some of the most serious infections to animal contact – including Campylobacter spp. (the most common foodborne bacterial infection in the UK) , Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica. Ick!
If you’re in contact with animals, of course you increase the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. A recent study investigating an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in visitors to a petting farm in England showed the people who became ill were 5·5 times more likely to have eaten without washing their hands and 10 times less likely to report being informed of risk of infection on arrival. Also the uncommon Cryptosporidium parvum gp60 subtype (IIaA19G1R1) behind the outbreak was identified in lamb faecal samples and all the people who became sick.
The investigation concluded that lack of verbal advice and non-compliance with hand washing are significantly associated with a risk of cryptosporidiosis on open farms. These findings highlight the public health importance of effectively communicating risk to petting farm visitors in order to prevent future outbreaks of zoonotic infections.
Worried about hygiene at petting farms or zoos? Contact us and we’ll send you the most up-to-date guidelines.