Page last updated at 03:52 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 04:52 UK

Anger E.coli farm not shut sooner

Farm manager Richard Oatway said he has co-operated with the authorities

Parents of children hit by an E.coli outbreak at a farm say they are angry the attraction was not closed earlier.

Thirty-six people, including 12 children, have been taken ill. Three children remain seriously unwell.

Godstone Farm, near Redhill in Surrey, closed on Saturday, but the Health Protection Agency says the first case linked to it was found on 27 August.

The HPA said non-contact measures introduced on 3 September should have been enough to contain the outbreak.

Blood transfusion

Tracy Mock, from Kent, said her twin boys aged two are now in hospital after visiting the petting farm on 31 August. Their five-year-old sister was also taken ill.

Ms Mock told BBC News: "If they had just shut the place down to investigate, my sons would not be in hospital on kidney dialysis machines."

"They are still in hospital, my partner and I are taking turns to be there with them. One has had a blood transfusion. The doctors say it could be weeks until they are in a fit state to come home."

If there was a notice as we drove in I wouldn't have got out of the car
Claire Blackwell

Another mother, Claire Blackwell, said when she took her children to the farm on 9 September she had no idea there was anything wrong.

She told the BBC: "Whoever took the decision not to shut the farm earlier was completely in the wrong. If there was a notice as we drove in I wouldn't have got out of the car."

Graeme Newby from Chatham in Kent, whose wife was admitted to hospital after visiting the farm and whose daughter has been very ill, also asked why the farm was not closed earlier.

All the sick children are aged under 10. The HPA says 36 cases have been reported so far.

The outbreak is believed to have started on 8 August. The bacteria causes diarrhoea and can lead to kidney failure, especially in young children. It is fatal in very rare cases.

'50,000 possible cases'

Defending the agency's response to the outbreak, an HPA spokesman said: "This action has been taken in previous incidents and is both a proportionate and effective response for the scale of incident at that stage."

And farm manager Richard Oatway said the farm had acted responsibly and was co-operating with the investigation.

He said: "All the staff at the farm are very upset about the E.coli outbreak and we hope that all the children make a full and speedy recovery."

He added: "We will not reopen the farm until we are satisfied that we have got to the root of the problem and have put in place suitable control measures.

"Our main priority has always been to make sure the farm is safe for everyone who comes here to visit."

The HPA has recommended that anyone who visited the farm after 8 August, as well as members of their households, should seek medical advice if they become unwell.

According to the Daily Mail, the number affected could be as high as 50,000, and it is feared more children who went to the farm could develop the bug due to its long incubation period.

The outbreak has been described by experts as one of the largest seen in the UK.

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