The UK Health Protection Agency is issuing a seasonal warning to pregnant women about the potential risk associated with close contact with animals that are giving birth.
Pregnant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing, for example, may risk their own health, and that of their unborn child, from infections that can occur in some ewes.
Although the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with an infected animal is extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks and take appropriate precautions.
It is also important to note that these risks are not only confined to the spring (when the majority of lambs are born), nor are the risks only associated with sheep: cows and goats that have recently given birth can also carry similar infections.
To avoid the possible risk of infection, pregnant women are advised that they should:
• not help to lamb ewes, or to provide assistance with a cow that is calving or a nanny goat that is kidding;
• avoid contact with aborted or new-born lambs, calves or kids or with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or materials (eg bedding) contaminated by such birth products;
• avoid handling (including washing) clothing, boots or any materials that may have come into contact with animals that have recently given birth, their young or afterbirths; and,
• ensure partners attending lambing ewes or other animals giving birth take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and adequate washing to remove any potential contamination.