E-coli outbreak on Leeds petting farm: Dozens fall ill after visit

Swithens Farm, Rothwell, Leeds. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Swithens Farm, Rothwell, Leeds. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

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An outbreak of E.coli and parasitic disease cryptosporidiosis at a Leeds petting farm has led to more than 30 people falling ill.

Public health experts have launched an investigation into the outbreak, which has been linked to Swithens Farm, in Rothwell, Leeds.

Swithens Farm, in Rothwell, Leeds.

Swithens Farm, in Rothwell, Leeds.

A total of 29 cases of cryptosporidiosis, a disease caused by a microscopic parasite resistant to chlorination which causes sickness and diarrhoea, have so far been confirmed.

Two cases of bacterial infection E.coli 0157, which can cause severe stomach pain, bloody diarrhoea and can affect kidney function, have also been reported. All those affected visited Swithens Farm from the beginning of March onwards.

Public Health England (PHE) has been drafted in to deal with the issue and the owners of the farm voluntarily closed the facility for a period after the outbreak became apparent.

The petting farm has reopened and its owners say “every effort is being taken to ensure that visitors are not put at risk”.

We are working closely with Leeds City Council and Animal and Plant Health Agency to investigate further and to advise the premises concerned.

Dr Mike Gent, consultant in communicable disease control with Public Health England.

Dr Mike Gent, from PHE, said: “We are working closely with Leeds City Council and Animal and Plant Health Agency to investigate further and to advise the premises concerned.”

He said the farm was not allowed to reopen “until a number of matters had been addressed” and urged visitors to such attractions to wash their hands after touching animals.

The infections can be the result of contact with animals carrying germs or parasites, and often peak in spring. Between January and May 2015 there were at least seven outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis linked to petting farms across England, affecting around 130 people.

Ian and Angela Broadhead, who run Swithens Farm, have released a statement explaining that they are working with the council after becoming aware that “there have been some children with upset stomachs”.

They said: “The farm is open to the public and every effort is being taken to ensure that visitors are not put at risk.”