Children welcomed back to Sutton Park

By on 19/10/2012 in News

Children can once again visit Sutton Park from today (19 October) after steps were taken to reduce the risk of infection from E. coli O157.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) had previously advised parents of children aged 10 years and younger to keep them away from Sutton Park after several cases of E. coli O157, including two children who were hospitalised after visiting the park.

The HPA has worked closely with Birmingham City Council following the recent outbreak that has been linked to the faeces of animals that live in the park, in order to reduce the spread of the infection.

Dr Roger Gajraj, a consultant with the Health Protection Unit (HPU) in Birmingham said: “We have not had any reports of any new cases in almost six weeks and the control measures put in place will have reduced the risk.

“However, the advice to wash hands before eating or drinking remains essential for visitors to the park and indeed for anyone visiting areas where contact with animals or animal faeces is possible.”

E. coli O157 can be very serious in younger children. In some instances it can cause kidney failure and in the most serious cases it can be fatal. All of the six children in the recent outbreak recovered.

New signage has been put up at the park, reminding visitors of the importance of washing hands to avoid infection and showing where facilities to wash hands are available. Additional handwashing points have been installed and areas such as the playgrounds and car parks have been cleaned. As usual, the cattle that graze Sutton Park have now moved off site for the winter.

Dr Gajraj added: “We can never rule out all risk, however, and that's why it's essential people follow advice to wash their hands and supervise children while they are washing or wash their hands for them.”

Darren Share, Head of Parks at Birmingham City Council, said: “We have worked closely with the HPA over recent weeks and have followed their advice to ensure that this issue could be dealt with as quickly as possible. We look forward to seeing families of all ages once again enjoying one of the city’s most popular leisure facilities.”

Previous advice issued to avoid the risk of infection includes:

•    Avoid contact with animals and animal faeces.
•    Do not eat or play in areas where there are animals or animal faeces.
•    Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible after touching fences, contaminated clothes or other surfaces in places where animals have been.
•    Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately before eating or drinking, using the hand washing facilities available.
•    Supervise small children when washing their hands or wash their hands for them
•    Do not eat anything that has fallen on the ground.
•    Remove and clean dirty footwear and clean pushchair and bicycle wheels as soon as possible following a visit to the park. Then wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
•    If you feel ill contact your GP or ring NHS Direct on 0845 4647

ENDS

For more information contact Chris Bentley, HPA West Midlands Press Office on 0121 232 9223 or Birmingham City Council Press Office on 0121 303 3287.

Note to editors

E. coli O157 is a germ that can cause infection of the bowel. It is usually spread by contact with animals, ingestion of contaminated food or water, or spread from person-to-person.

The incubation period is usually between one to six days, with an average of two days. Symptoms include diarrhoea which usually settles within two weeks. Some people may have more serious illness with bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, raised temperature and shivering and should seek medical advice.

Across the country every year numerous sporadic cases and several outbreaks of E. coli O157 and cryptosporidiosis are associated with visits to animal parks, petting farms or with picnicking in environments that have been contaminated by the faeces of wild or domesticated animals.

Clothes, shoes and bicycle wheels can also become contaminated when leaning on fences that surround animal enclosures, from sitting on the ground or cycling through areas that have been contaminated with the bacteria.

The spread of infection can be prevented by thorough hand washing by everyone in the household, especially after using the toilet, before handling food, after handling raw food and immediately before eating or drinking.

Hand-washing after contact with animals, even domestic pets, is vital. Young children should be supervised when washing their hands, or have their hands washed for them.

Covering an area of 2,400 acres, Sutton Park is one of the largest urban parks in Europe and attracts over 2 million visitors a year.

For a full list of Sutton Coldfield parks and open spaces, go to: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/2012/09/map-parks-and-open-spaces-in-sutton-coldfield/

Further information on E. coli O157 is available on the HPA website: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/EscherichiaColiO157/PatientCarer/

For more information visit www.hpa.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @HPAuk

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