Mud with sheep poop sickens mountain bikers

Hundreds of mountain bikers competing in separate races in British Columbia and Wales in the past year were stricken by campylobacter, apparently from contact with feces-laden mud.

Now, the National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) and Environmental Health officers at Powys County Council have concluded the Welsh outbreak was probably caused by campylobacter, spread to the cyclists by mud which was contaminated with sheep feces.

The report acknowledged that, given the nature of mountain bike events, it would be impossible to eliminate the risk of catching such an infection, but made the following recommendations:

* Participants should avoid using soiled drink and food containers
* Pre-packaged food should be eaten out of the wrapper
* Where possible, hands and utensils should be washed before consuming food and drinks
* No open food should be served at events.
* Drinks produced in large volumes for consumption by participants should be dispensed using a method which does not require the repeated immersion of utensils.
* Organisers should consider providing facilities to wash hands and water bottles with clean, running water
* Wherever possible, courses should be re-routed to avoid areas which are heavily contaminated with animal faeces
* Mountain bikers, particularly those who are vulnerable to infection, should be alerted to the potential risk of acquiring zoonotic illnesses from participation in events which cross land used by agricultural and other animals.

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Another campylobacter outbreak from mud at a mountain bike race

From Canada to Wales, if you’re racing mountain bikes, try not to swallow the mud – apparently there’s a lot of shit in mud.

In June 2007, hundreds were stricken and 18 tested positive for campylobacter during the annual Test of Metal mountain bike race in Squamish, B.C.

Dr. Paul Martiquet, the chief medical officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said,

"This was an outbreak with a high attack rate. Our future advice to the race organizers is to inspect the route prior to the race to ensure it is not littered with animal feces, and not end the race at the horse ring. If there is any horse poop, they have to remove it."

Now, a preliminary report by the National Public Health Service for Wales estimates that up to 160 people who attended the Merida Bikes mountain bike Marathon July 5-6, 2008, based on Builth Wells, fell ill, and 10 of the riders tested positive for campylobacter.

The report described the course as,

“very muddy and contaminated with sheep slurry in certain areas, leading to significant amounts of mud splashing over participants and their equipment. … The most statistically significant risk was the inadvertent ingestion of mud. The nature of this sport means that riding through muddy, agricultural land is unavoidable. The risk of infection from zoonotic organisms such as campylobacter will therefore always be present. Clearly the weather conditions on the day of this event compounded the problem by making contamination by mud inevitable.”


Biking tip: Don’t eat mud mixed with animal poop

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority reports that 18 participants or spectators at the Test of Metal mountain bike race June 16 have confirmed cases of campylobacter.

Within days of the race, online mountain bike forums like began buzzing with participants reporting symptoms of campylobacter infection,

Cliff Miller, the event organizer for the past 14 years, was cited as saying this is the first time anything like this has happened, and that this year’s wet and rainy race day conditions were the worst he’s seen, adding, "I think everybody had fun until they got home."

One potential source of the campylobacter was mud mixed with animal waste. Another was ground water.