PHA urges families to ‘wash your hands after visiting the farm’

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Now that schools are finished for the summer and parents are thinking of activities to keep their children entertained, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding families about the importance of washing hands after visiting the farm.

All animals naturally carry a range of organisms, some of which can be transmitted to people. Some organisms which may be contracted on farms present a serious hazard and can potentially cause severe infection, particularly in young children.

To reduce the risk of illness, both adults and children should thoroughly wash their hands using soap and water after they have handled animals or touched surfaces at the farm and always before eating or drinking.

Antibacterial hand gels and wipes are not a substitute for washing hands with soap and water, as gels/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 further reduce the risk of picking up these infections.

Dr Gerry Waldron, Acting Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection), PHA, said: “Farm animals often carry a range of organisms which can be passed to children and adults. These organisms can include serious infections such as E. coli 0157 which is extremely contagious and easily passed from animals to children and then within the household.

“Hand washing with soap and water will reduce the risk of picking up these infections, which can be particularly harmful to young children. By being aware and by doing these simple things we can help to avoid illness and enjoy a fun day out.”

Visiting a farm is a very popular summer activity but it’s important to remember that contact with farm animals carries a risk of infection, therefore parents/adults need to supervise children washing their hands when visiting an open farm.

Please visit the PHA website http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/hand-cleaning-techniquefor guidelines on hand washing techniques.