Pregnant women should avoid close contact with sheep during the lambing season, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Harry Burns advised earlier this week.
Dr Burns said: “Pregnant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing may be risking their own health and the health of their unborn child, from infections that can occur in some ewes.
“Although these infections are uncommon, and the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with sheep is extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks and take appropriate precautions.
“These risks are not only associated with sheep, nor confined only to the spring (when the majority of lambs are born). Cattle 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 or milk ewes or other animals; avoid contact with aborted or new-born animals or with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or materials (e.g. 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; ensure partners attending animals giving birth take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of protective equipment and adequate washing to remove any potential contamination.
Farmers have a responsibility to minimise the risks to pregnant women, including members of their family, the public and professional staff visiting farms.