THE Scottish Chief Medical Officer has issued seasonal advice highlighting a potential risk for pregnant women at this time of year.
Pregnant women who come in close contact with sheep during lambing may be risking their health and the health of their unborn child as infections such as chlamydiosis (enzootic abortion of ewes EAE), toxoplasmosis and listeriosis, all common caused of abortion in ewes, can be passed on.
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.
If they do become ill, experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, and are concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment, they should seek immediate medical advice.
These risks are not only associated with sheep, nor confined only the spring (when the majority of lambs are born), as 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
Avoid contact with aborted or newborn lambs 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 ewes, lambs or afterbirth.
Ensure partners attending lambing ewes take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and adequate washing to remove an potential contamination.