Virtual Schoolbag (VSB)
Letter from our Director of Public Health regarding farm visits and Preventing Illness and Outbreaks.
Farm visits and preventing illness/outbreaks
With spring in the air, many farms in East Sussex are preparing to welcome school children to meet the newly arrived lambs and to learn about the countryside and the environment.
You may already have planned or are considering a farm visit for your school children in the next few weeks. While they shouldn’t miss out on this enjoyable and educational experience, please remember that some farm animals can carry infections such as E.coli O157 and Cryptosporidium, which can be passed to people. Last spring, there were a number of cases of Cryptosporidium across the South East associated with visiting farms. Some of the children affected had attended a farm as part of a school organised visit.
Chapter 6 of the 'Industry Code of Practice on preventing and controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions' provides guidance for school teachers on the steps to take before, during and after the visit. Visitmyfarm.org https://www.visitmyfarm.org/component/k2/339-industry-code-of-practice/339-industry-code-of-practice provides information sheets, children activities on hand washing, and an example risk assessment; that can be used before the visit.
The key steps include:
- Discuss with supervisors their roles and responsibilities particularly the supervision of hand washing
- Supervise children throughout the visit
- Follow farm instructions that appear around the farm including where to eat and drink, and when to wash hands
- Do not get into the animal pens, pick things up off the floor or kiss the animal
- Use the farm’s hand washing stations where hot/cold or warm running water with soap and hand drying facilities are available. Antibacterial wipes/gels are not a substitute for hand washing as they are not effective on dirty hands
- Always wash hands before eating or drinking, after visiting the animals and after changing footwear/clothes
- Eat or drink in picnic areas or cafes only
- Wear washable footwear which can be changed and cleaned at the end of the visit
If anyone in your group is sick or has diarrhoea within two weeks of visiting the farm, they should contact their GP or NHS111 as soon as possible. If they have bloody diarrhoea they should seek immediate emergency medical attention. Anyone who has been ill should stay away from school until they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours.
If you become aware of two or more people with similar symptoms following a farm visit, please contact Public Health England on 0344 225 3861, Option 3 (Surrey and Sussex), to report a potential outbreak.
Health Protection Specialist
Phone: 01273 336864