Farm animals quarantined following reported illnesses at petting zoo

Animals at a Middletown farm are being quarantined after three people got sick, Rhode Island health officials announced Monday, April 16, 2018. (Simmons Farm photo)

Animals at a Middletown farm are being quarantined after three people got sick, Rhode Island health officials announced Monday.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said one child and two adults came down with cryptosporidiosis after having contact with goats during “pet and cuddle” events at Simmons Farm on West Main Road on March 25 and 31.

“Cryptosporidiosis lives in the gut of infected humans or animals. It is spread through contact with the feces of an infected person or animal, typically when people touch their mouths with contaminated hands,” according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“Where it really hits hard are animals that have underlying diseases,” Rhode Island State Veterinarian Scott Marshall said. “They might get run down and actually succumb to the disease.”

Symptoms include diarrhea with abdominal pain and cramping, as well as vomiting, nausea and fever.

"I have never been so sick," one woman, who did not want to be identified, told NBC 10 News. "I had visited the farm on Saturday, March 31 and by Friday evening, I was extremely ill and it progressively got worse from there."

She said she went to the hospital April 10 and a doctor asked if she had been to a farm.

"Today, I have had my first real meal and my stomach is already gurgling," she said. "Up until tonight, I had six Saltines."

About 60 goats and five cows are being quarantined, Simmons Farm owners told NBC 10 News. They will also be screened.

“The quarantine put in place by DEM pertains to all livestock at the farm. All livestock must be kept in a manner that precludes any physical contact with the public until the quarantine is lifted,” the RIDOH noted. “Anyone who has visited Simmons Farm within the last month should monitor themselves for the symptoms of cryptosporidiosis. If symptoms do develop, a healthcare provider should be contacted. The farm owners have voluntarily closed the petting zoo along with their farm stand.”

Simmons Farm posted an update on Facebook at about 4:45 p.m., noting that the closure, which could last a week or more, will hurt financially.

“We feel it is important now that we have been properly informed to inform all of you that, unfortunately our goats have contracted cryptosporidium, a common parasite that can be passed to humans, as a precautionary measure we voluntarily closed the Farm stand and all Petting opportunities for this past weekend, the health and well-being of our customers is of upmost concern to us,” according to the post. “We are working with the RI health department and the state vet to identify the cause of the problem, ways to remedy the situation and prevent it from happening again. We will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time, until we receive an all clear from the RI health department. Thank you for all of your kind words and thoughts during this difficult time.”

The RIDOH also offered the following tips:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds after contacting livestock, before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, or after changing diapers
  • Avoid allowing clothing to be contaminated with feces, and wash any clothing that is contaminated. (People’s clothing is often contaminated when they pick up goats whose hooves have fecal matter on them.)
  • Make sure that only healthy animals are in contact with the public
  • Keep animals in sanitary environments
  • Make hand-washing stations available for patrons
  • Avoid eating in areas where animals are kept

“Just the things that your mom told you to do -- wash your hands before you eat, before you put anything in your mouth. Just good advice,” Marshall said.

Marshall said most people who contract cryptosporidiosis can recover in about two weeks, adding that people with weak immune systems are more at-risk.

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