Babies and children * Healthy living

Four farms closed due to E. coli fears

Zone default image 64 cases linked to Godstone farm

The number of E. coli cases linked to Godstone Farm in Surrey has risen to 64, latest figures show, with nine children still in hospital. Their condition has been described as stable.

The Godstone Farm E. coli 0157 outbreak was "possibly the largest in the UK" to be caused by contact with animals, said the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

Last week, Horton Park Children's farm in Surrey - sister farm of Godstone - voluntarily closed after a HPA inspection found it's hygiene arrangements "unsatisfactory", although there have not been any E.coli infections linked to the farm.

Another two farms - White Post Farm in Nottinghamshire and World of Country Life in Devon - have also closed as a "precautionary measure."

Two people who visited White Post Farm were found to be infected with the same strain of E. coli 0157, and a further two with a different strain of the bacterium. Three children who visited World of Country Life have also been found to be positive for E. coli 0157.

Both farms are now under investigation by the HPA.

Recent events have led microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington to suggest that the current guidelines for hygiene at petting farms may need to be revised. He also said that the ones who were most at risk of complications - young children - were also worst at hand washing.

At the start of the Godstone Farm outbreak, Dr Angela Iverson from the HPA urged parents visiting petting farms to make sure their children follow strict hand washing with soap and water, and not to rely on alcohol gels alone.

This article was published on Mon 21 September 2009

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