Articles "Infection Risks From Contact With Farm Animals & Poultry" Article Index

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By: Eurosurveillance Weekly
Date: 4/20/00 - Issue 16
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As the season for farm visits gets under way, Englandıs chief medical officer has warned parents, teachers, and children to take extra precautions to avoid contracting Escherichia coli serotype O157 infection from farm animals (1).

The incidence of E. coli O157 infections rises in young children during the summer, with around half of all reported cases occurring between July and September. Almost a third of infected patients have to be admitted to hospital and, from 1992 to 1996, 3.7% of cases died.

Young children may develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) after E. coli O157 infection: between 1994 and 1999, seven of 25 children under the age of 5 years developed HUS after acquiring the infection when visiting farms. Visitors are advised to clean their shoes thoroughly after a farm visit. Parents and teachers are advised to ensure that children: wash their hands thoroughly after touching an animal or its faeces donıt eat or drink while visiting a farm donıt put their hands in their mouths after animal contact. Further evidence of infection risks associated with domestic animals comes from a recent report in the MMWR, which describes outbreaks of salmonellosis associated with the handling of chicks and ducklings in the American states of Michigan and Missouri in 1999 (2).

Twenty-one cases of Salmonella infantis infection were reported between April and July 1999, 17 of whom had had direct or indirect contact with baby birds beforehand. Eight reported contact with chicks, two with ducklings, and six with chicks, ducklings, and other species. Of the traceable sources, 88% of the birds had come from one hatchery.

A case control study of 19 patients and 37 controls showed that three quarters of the patients had had direct contact with birds or lived in a household that raised poultry. In several households birds were kept inside the home.

A similar spate of 40 cases of S. typhimurium infection reported in Missouri in the spring of 1999 showed that exposure to young fowl had preceded infection in 32 of the 33 patients interviewed. Eighteen had had direct or indirect contact with chicks and 10 had been exposed to ducklings.

The report advises handwashing with soap and water after contact with chicks, ducklings, and other young fowl and their faeces to avoid infection (2). It recommends that young farmyard birds should not be kept in households with infants, children under the age of 5 years, or people with impaired immunity.

1.Chief Medical Officer. Health advice issued for farm visits by children. London: Department of Health, 2000: 12 April. (EM/CMO/2000/6).

2.US Department of Health and Human Services. Salmonellosis associated with chicks and ducklings -- Michigan and Missouri, Spring 1999. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2000;14:297­9. epo/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4914a1.htm

Agricultural Research Service

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