Fifty cases of Cryptosporidium have been traced to a farm on an island off the south coast of England.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)’s South East branch has tried to contact people who visited Hazelgrove Farm from April to the start of May on the Isle of Wight.

People are thought to have become sick after coming into contact with animals. The farm halted animal petting activity in early May.

No ongoing risk
Dr. Anand Fernandes, the health protection consultant for UKHSA South East, said there is no ongoing risk to the public associated with the farm.

“We have worked closely with the Isle of Wight Council, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the farm to take all appropriate public health steps to help prevent further infection. The farm took quick action and voluntarily stopped the animal petting activity on May 1. Although symptoms of cryptosporidiosis can last for over two weeks in some people, we do not expect to see new cases directly attributed to the farm beyond May 10,” he said.

There are a number of infections that can be associated with visiting farms and touching animals, including E. coli, Salmonella, and Cryptosporidium, said Fernandes.

“Cryptosporidium, which is central to this incident, is a relatively common bug that can be easily caught from touching animals, so we recommend people wash their hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and dry them after being near animals or in areas frequented by animals and before preparing or eating food. This is especially important if you have been ill with symptoms yourself, as people with the infection can pass it on to others by touching surfaces or food.”

People were advised to stay out of school and work for 48 hours and away from swimming pools for 14 days after the last episode of illness.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that, if ingested, can cause cryptosporidiosis. Transmission occurs mainly through contact with contaminated water but can be via food or exposure to infected animals or water contaminated by the feces of infected animals. The risk of infection can be reduced by good hand hygiene.

The main symptom is watery diarrhea, which can range from mild to severe. It is often accompanied by stomach pain, nausea or vomiting, fever, and sometimes dehydration. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after infection and last one to two weeks.

E. coli and Cryptosporidium incidents involving APHA
Meanwhile, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has revealed details of outbreaks the agency was included in from January to March.

During the first quarter of 2023, APHA continued to assist with a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157 outbreak which started in the previous quarter. Cases of STEC O157 from earlier incidents in the summer of 2022 and in October to November 2022 had an identical whole genome sequence (WGS) — all of them were epidemiologically linked to the same open farm.

In the fourth quarter of 2022, an APHA veterinary investigation officer visited the farm at the request of the incident management team. Forty fresh environmental samples of floors, fields, pens, and feces from a range of animals were collected.

E. coli O157 was not detected in 39 samples but there was a suspect organism cultured by APHA in one pig sample. This underwent further investigation including WGS analysis which confirmed the pig isolate was an identical strain to human cases. The three pigs, who were all healthy, in the pen that the positive sample originated from, were moved off the farm to another location. The pen was cleaned and disinfected with no public access in the interim.

A report advised the risk to the public could be reduced further by making improvements to the supervision of animal contact, enhancing handwashing facilities, and improving some of the animal exhibits.

In March, APHA was part of an outbreak control team looking into an incident of cryptosporidiosis linked to a milk vending machine. The investigation is ongoing so no more details are yet available.

Detection of Coxiella burnetii in 11 bovine bulk milk samples by PCR at an overseas laboratory, including nine from English dairy farms and two from Welsh dairy farms, were reported to APHA.

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