Mothers-to-be: step away from the lamb about to pop

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.

UK agency fined over E.coli spill

Bad training, complacency, a complete lack of understanding o risk.

Those were the quotes being thrown around Judge Martin Stephens fined the U.K. Health Protection Agency £25,000 E. coli O157 was spilled in an accident at its laboratory.

Press Associated reported,

Prosecutors said the incident exposed a "general complacency" about the transfer of infectious waste at the HPA’s centre in Colindale, north London.

No one was infected as a result of the spillage in October 2007.

The court was told that faulty "bins" used to carry the bug and other infectious waste – including samples of the plague – to be safely disposed of remained in use even though defects had been spotted 17 months earlier.

Andrew Marshall, prosecuting, said at the time of the accident, employees taking E. coli to a disposal unit were not wearing protective clothing, and that,

An initial assessment of the spillage by staff at the centre had shown a "complete lack of understanding of risk.”

Judge Stephens said the failings were an "acute embarrassment" for the HPA, an independent body set up by the Government in 2003 to protect the public from threats from infectious diseases and environmental hazards.

In addition to the fine, Judge Stephens ordered the agency to pay costs of £20,166.

The court heard that an HPA employee =- who had not been properly trained in the transport of the waste – was handling the bin when one of his hands slipped, it swung down to the floor, and the lid came open.