Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Important Advice from HSE and HPA

Dianne Summers of the TB Support Group has kindly sent us the following documents which have been sent to her from Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health Protection Agency (HPA).

The documents as a whole can be seen under “Useful Links” on the right hand side of this blog.

Please note although both documents refer mainly to cattle we need to be extra vigilant when dealing with TB in camelids. Cattle don’t tend to spit nor do cattle carry massive open TB lesions in their throats or lungs – see the case history files on this blog for more details and photographs, they are in the "Blog Archive" under April 2010. Therefore the risk to human health has to be far greater. TB is a zoonosis.

HSE Advice


All farm animals naturally carry a range of diseases, some of which can also affect humans. These diseases are known as zoonoses, and if you work with animals your health may be at risk from them. Although some of these diseases (eg anthrax, brucellosis and rabies) are not common in Great Britain, good occupational hygiene practices will protect against them, as well as other more common zoonoses such as leptospirosis, orf or ringworm.

Diseases transmitted from animals to humans can also affect visitors to farms -especially children or the elderly, who are more vulnerable to infection. These illnesses include those resulting from infection with the organisms Escherichia coli O157 (E coli O157) and Cryptosporidium parvum.

If you open your farm to the public you should take special precautions to make sure that they are not made ill by zoonoses.

Brucellosis, anthrax, bovine tuberculosis and BSE are notifiable or reportable diseases and subject to animal health legislation. Suspected cases must be reported to the Divisional Veterinary Manager at the Animal Health Divisional Office (AHDO).

Legal requirements

Zoonoses are caused by micro-organisms, which are subject to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 (as amended). COSHH requires employers and self-employed people to:

• assess the risks to health from work activities which involve a hazardous substance (eg a micro-organism);

• prevent or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately control exposure to the hazardous substances;

• introduce and maintain control measures;

• inform, instruct and train employees about the risks and precautions to be taken;

• regularly review risk assessments and the effectiveness of control measures.

Safe working practices

Consider the following:

● avoid or minimise the use of equipment or tools likely to cause cuts, abrasions or puncture wounds, and use safe working practices and PPE where appropriate;

Presumably the above would include shearing equipment

Personal hygiene

Any work with animals inevitably involves contact with dung and urine, which contain disease-causing organisms. Personal hygiene is therefore vitally important. If you are an employer, provide washing facilities wherever staff or visitors work with animals (at least, clean running water and paper towels). Make sure that you and your staff:

• wash cuts and grazes immediately with soap and running water;
cover new and existing wounds with a waterproof dressing before beginning work -some organisms enter the body through open wounds. Consider whether you or your staff need first-aid training;

● wash hands and arms before eating, drinking or smoking after contacting animals, or working in areas with animal dung.

Bovine tuberculosis

Bovine TB is most commonly carried by cattle, badgers and deer, and can infect humans by inhalation or hand-to-mouth contact. People handling infected cattle are at risk, especially if they become contaminated with mucus from the respiratory tract (eg by holding the animalʼs nose) and then do not follow the basic rules of good personal hygiene.

Many people will have been immunised against TB in childhood (the ʻBCGʼ immunisation). This gives substantial but not complete protection. If you are in an area where infection in cattle is common, consider whether you should contact your doctor to check your immunisation status. Do not rely on the BCG immunisation to prevent infection -always follow good practice.

Below are extracts from the Health Protection Agency

How is bovine TB transmitted?

Transmission of M. bovis can occur between animals, from animals to humans and, more rarely, from humans to animals and between humans. It is also possible to contract M. bovis infection by inhaling the bacteria shed by infectious animals in respiratory and other secretions, or through contamination of unprotected cuts or abrasions in the skin while handling infected animals or their carcasses, although this is rare.

Reducing the risk of human M. bovis infection on farms

Working with livestock may involve close contact with latently infected animals or animals with active tuberculosis. Relevant regulations require farmers to adopt appropriate measures to minimise exposure of employees and farm visitors to infections that can be transmitted to humans from animals. These include awareness of possible risks from contaminated aerosols in areas frequented by farm workers.

In order to reduce the risk of exposure to bovine TB bacteria on livestock farms you should:

• Wash hands thoroughly several times a day and always before eating, smoking and after finishing work for the day

• Wash skin wounds immediately with soap and running water and cover with a waterproof dressing

• Do not drink, eat or smoke in animal areas

• Where possible, do not handle reactor cattle or other suspect animals around the nose

We are sure that after the TB Awareness Meetings no responsible alpaca owner would encourage others to handle any animal it suspects of carrying TB and would also be aware that a negative skin test is no indicator that an animal is free from bTB.

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