Several people who touched baby goats at a farm in Loudoun County, Virginia, in recent weeks have gotten sick with the bacteria E. coli, health officials say.
Those who got sick visited Georges Mill Farm in Lovettsville between March 6 and April 20, the Loudoun County Health Department said in a release on Monday.
A Virginia lab identified the Shiga Toxin Producing E. coli after several people reported having diarrhea and other symptoms.
"We feel horrible that several of our baby goat visitors got sick after their visit and that the Loudoun County Health Department considers contact with the baby goats as the source of the illness," a spokesperson for Georges Mill Farm said in a statement to News4.
The spokesperson said E. coli is a normal part of animal gastrointestinal systems and they don't believe that there was any greater risk to visitors this season than any previous season. The farm has hand washing and sanitizer stations, the spokesperson said.
"We wish those sickened a speedy recovery and we have and will continue to make every effort to minimize the inherent risks of baby goat visiting," the spokesperson said.
The farm says it stopped allowing people to visit the baby goats after the health department notified them of the illnesses. Georges Mill plans to open again next spring with additional systems in place to prevent such illnesses as best it can, the spokesperson said.
Health officials say people should always remember to wash their hands after coming into contact with animals and pets.
The health department said anyone who had contact with the goats during the time frame above should do the following:
- Monitor for illness and seek medical attention if you become ill. Let your healthcare provider know of your possible exposure to assist in your diagnosis and treatment.
- Report your exposure to the Loudoun County Health Department by completing this short survey.
Symptoms of E. coli illness usually start two to four days after exposure, but can occur as late as 12 hours later, or as long as 10 days after exposure. Symptoms might include:
- Diarrhea with stomach cramps
- Blood may also be present in the stool