PUBLIC Health England South West (PHSW) has issued advice to pregnant women about the possible dangers of being in contact with sheep during lambing season.

The health watchdog says animals that are due to or have recently given birth, may carry germs that can affect pregnant women, such as chlamydiosis, listeriosis, Q fever and toxoplasmosis but says the likelihood of these infections affecting pregnant women is very small.

Dominic Mellon, consultant in health protection for Public Health England South West said:“As we approach lambing season it is important to remind pregnant women about the potential risk of coming into contact with livestock that are or recently have given birth.

"Some infections can be passed to humans and if pregnant women become infected, it could harm her and her unborn baby’s health.

“Although the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with sheep is extremely small, it is important for pregnant women to avoid close contact with sheep and other livestock that have recently given birth.”

According to PHSW although the risk of infections is low for pregnant women they should avoid close contact with sheep during lambing season including trips to petting farms.

PHSW said to avoid the risk of infection, pregnant women should:

Not help deliver lambs, calves or kids;

Not milk ewes;

Avoid contact with aborted (miscarried) or newborn lambs, and with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or contaminated materials, such as bedding;

Avoid handling or washing clothing, boots or any materials that may have come into contact with animals that have recently given birth, their young or afterbirths, potentially contaminated clothing will be safe to handle after being washed on a hot cycle clothing worn during lambing should be washed separately from other washing;

Ensure that contacts or partners who have attended animals giving birth take appropriate health and hygiene precautions.

This includes wearing personal protective equipment and clothing and adequate washing to remove any potential contamination.

Pregnant women should be advised to seek medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, or if they are concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment.

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