Media Coverage

Parents of young children may be worried about recent reports of outbreaks of E-coli at some children’s farms.

They may also be cautious about visiting farms after advice from one expert that parents should think hard before allowing young children to touch farm animals.

Don’t panic

It is important not to panic and to understand the facts behind the headlines, as well as what rights people have who become, or whose children become, infected.

What is E-coli?

E-coli, or Escherichia coli is a common and usually harmless type of bacteria that lives inside peoples’ intestines and helps the body break down and digest food.

However, some strains of E-coli are dangerous. Symptoms of infection include diarrhoea and vomiting which can lead to dehydration which can be particularly dangerous for young children and the elderly because of their weaker immune systems and lower tolerance to fluid loss.

In severe cases this can result in kidney failure and can cause permanent damage needing dialysis or transplant. In rare cases E-coli can prove fatal.

The risk with farm animals

Because E-coli lives in the intestines of animals as well as humans, contamination can occur by touching farm animals.

But if hands are washed thoroughly before they come into contact with the mouth then contact with farm animals should not be a risk. A child cannot be infected simply by stroking a farm or family animal.

This is why the advice to think hard about letting the under 5’s touch farm animals was given. It is difficult to ensure completely safe hand hygiene in this age group.