LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Georges Mill Farm in Lovettsville has announced their baby goat pen is closed to visitors for the rest of the year after Loudoun County health officials informed them that several guests who had contact with the goats in March and April became ill with symptoms of E. coli infection.
The individuals who became sick were exposed to a bacterium known as Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STEC). Those exposed visited the farm between March 6 and April 20, according to the Loudoun County Health Department.
“We feel horrible that several of our baby goat visitors got sick after their visit and that the Loudoun County Health Department considers contact with the baby goats as the source of the illness,” a spokesperson for the farm said in a statement, adding, “We take public health very seriously, so we closed baby goat visiting upon notification from the Health Department of our association with the ill individuals out of an abundance of caution, even though we don’t believe there has been any greater risk this season than there has been at any time during the last decade of baby goat visiting.”
Georges Mill Farm plans to reopen the baby goat pen next spring in accordance with their usual risk-mitigation protocols, as well as any additional recommendations from the county Health Department.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of a STEC infection include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting. Some may get a mild fever of less than 101˚F.
While individuals infected with STEC typically begin to feel sick three to four days after coming into contact with the bacteria, illnesses can start anywhere from one to ten days after exposure.
Conditions start to improve within five to seven days for most people, but some infections can become severe or even life-threatening. The CDC encourages people to contact their healthcare provider if they exhibit the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days
- Diarrhea that is accompanied by a fever higher than 102˚F
- Bloody diarrhea
- Frequent vomiting