Dozens infected after outbreak of parasitic disease at petting farm

Swithens Farm in Rothwell, Leeds.
Swithens Farm in Rothwell, Leeds.

More than 30 people have fallen ill after an outbreak of E.coli and a parasitic disease at a petting farm.

Public health experts have launched an investigation into the outbreak at Swithens Farm in Rothwell and the owners of the farm voluntarily closed the premises after the incident became apparent.

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

Dr Mike Gent, consultant in communicable disease control with Public Health England, said: “We are working closely with Leeds City Council and Animal and Plant Health Agency to investigate further and to advise the premises concerned.”

The infections can be the result of contact with animals carrying germs or parasites and often peak in spring.

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