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Health warning for pregnant women as lambing season gets underway

23 Feb 2022 3 minute read
Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

Pregnant women in Wales are being reminded to stay away from animals that are giving or have recently given birth, or that have aborted.

The advice, issued by Public Health Wales, comes as the lambing season gets underway and is due to the increased risk from infections which can occur in some ewes.

Dr Robert Smith, Clinical Scientist in Zoonoses, Public Health Wales, said: “Although the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with an infected animal is extremely small, the individual impact can be high.


‘Therefore 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).

“It may not be initially obvious that a ewe is aborting or discharging potentially infectious material or fluids. Cattle and goats that have recently given birth or aborted, often at other times of the year can carry similar infections.”

To avoid the possible risk of infection, PHW says pregnant women should:

Not help ewes to lamb, 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 or clothing) contaminated by such birth products, vaccines or recently vaccinated sheep

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. Potentially contaminated clothing will be safe to handle after being washed on a hot cycle

Ensure contacts or partners who have attended lambing ewes or other animals giving birth take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and clothing and adequate washing to remove any potential contamination

If it is not possible to clean up thoroughly during the night, then sleep in separate bedrooms

Scrub hands with soap and water (hand gels are not appropriate), and keep finger nails short and clean

Pregnant women are also being urged to seek medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, or if concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment.

Farmers and livestock keepers are also being reminded they have a responsibility to minimise the risks to pregnant women, including members of their family, the public and professional staff visiting farms and are advised that pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals should not be involved in the care or husbandry of heavily pregnant animals

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