With many families taking day trips over the summer holidays, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding everyone of the importance of washing their hands when visiting farms and urging people to not rely on using hand wipes and antibacterial gel alone.
Dr Lourda Geoghegan, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Open farms can be great fun for the family but it’s important to be safe when getting close to animals in the farmyard or field.
“All animals naturally carry a range of organisms, some of which can be transmitted to children and adults and can potentially cause severe infection, particularly in young children. For example, E. coli O157 is easily passed from animals to children, can spread easily within the household and may cause severe infection in young children.
“To reduce the risk of illness, all adults and children should wash their hands thoroughly using soap and water after they have handled animals or touched surfaces at the farm. Hands should always be washed before eating or drinking and after using the toilet.
“Antibacterial hand gels and wipes are not a substitute for washing hands with soap and water, as gels and wipes may be unable to remove contamination in the way that running water can. However, using such gels after hand washing with soap and water may reduce the risk of picking up these infections.
“A responsible adult should always supervise children’s hand washing at the farm to make sure it is done properly. By being aware and by taking some simple hand hygiene steps, we can all help to avoid illness and enjoy a fun day out.”
Guidelines on washing hands are available from the PHA online at www.bit.ly/handcleansing