Lambing alert for pregnant women.
The Department of Health, Defra and the Health and Safety Executive warned that expectant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing may risk their own health and that of their unborn child.
The cause is infections which can occur in some ewes, including chlamydiosis, toxo- plasmosis and listeriosis, which are common causes of abortion in ewes.
Although there are very few reports of human miscarriages resulting from contact with sheep, pregnant women should be aware of the potential risks.
To avoid infection they should not help to lamb or milk ewes.
They should also avoid contact with aborted or new-born lambs or with the afterbirth, and avoid handling clothing and boots that have come into contact with ewes or lambs.
Pregnant women should seek medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, or if they are concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment.
All farmers have a responsibility to minimise the risks to pregnant women, including members of their family, the public and professional staff visiting farms.
If a ewe aborts, farmers are advised to ask their veterinary surgeon to take a sample to their regional laboratory of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency to determine the cause.
In the interests of hygiene, farmers should dispose of all afterbirths promptly and safely in accordance with the relevant legislation.
The EU Animal By- Products Regulations 2002 requires animal by-products, including afterbirth material, to be disposed of via an approved route such as rendering, incineration or knackers' yards.