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Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 00:15 GMT
Pregnant women urged: Avoid sheep
sheep and lamb
Women are warned to avoid sheep and lambs
Health officials have told pregnant women to avoid contact with sheep during the lambing season because of the risk of miscarriage.

Some ewes carry infections such as chlamydiosis, toxplasmosis and listeriosis.

Women are particularly advised not to help with lambing, or even to milk ewes.

And contact with aborted or newborn lambs, and the afterbirth, could also be dangerous.

Even handling clothing such as boots which have come into contact with the lambs or ewes may pass on the infection.

The warnings were issued jointly by the Department of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Health and Safety Executive.

They say that even though the incidence of these infections in pregnant women is very low, they should be made aware of the risk.

Farmers have been told to bury or burn afterbirths or aborted lambs as soon as possible to minimise the risk.

Dangerous bacterium

If a ewe aborts her lamb, a vet should be notified, the advice states, so that the cause can be discovered.

Chlamydiosis is caused by a bacterium which has the ability to cause problems in more than one species, including humans.

The infection can cause spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage, in both.

Toxoplasmosis is another bacterial infection more usually associated with dog faeces.

It can cause blindness in young children if the bacteria are passed into the eye.

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