29 June 2000
E.coli common in dairy herds

ALMOST half the dairy herds in England and Wales carry the deadly E.coli 0157 bug, new research reveals.

A ministry of agriculture study found at least one animal in 44% of herds in England in Wales carried the strain.

The study, unveiled at a national conference on the bug on Wednesday (28 June), also found that in Scotland the figure was 23%.

Another survey, of abattoirs, found that nearly 5% of cattle, just under 2% of sheep and 0.16% of pigs were carriers of E.coli 0157.

MAFF chief vet Jim Scudamore said the figures were not a surprise, but stressed that the numbers affected in each herd were low.

“Theres very low numbers of animals within those herds,” Mr Scudamore told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

“Those animals will only excrete the bug intermittently, and therefore the risks are not as high as youd think.”

Mr Scudamore admitted it was difficult to know why the bug was found in cattle more than other domestic animals.

He said a lot more work needed to be done before farmers could be given methods of control.

Delegates at the conference heard that case control studies have shown that a high proportion of human cases of E.coli 0157 were exposed to environmental factors.

Sufferers came into contact with gardens, farms, farm animals or farmland contaminated by infected farm animals or water supplies.

Public Health Laboratory figures for England and Wales show the incidence of E.coli 0157 had leapt from one reported case in 1982 to 1084 cases last year.