CHILDREN are warned not to kiss animals or eat anything whilst visiting farms, following an infection outbreak in Halton.

Several cases of cryptosporidium have been reported in recent weeks.

The symptoms are watery diarrhoea and stomach pains. There is no specific treatment although it is important that anyone with the illness keeps hydrated.

The bacterial infection lives in human and animal faeces.

Peak outbreaks occur during school holidays. Around 80 cases are reported due to visits to petting farms every year.

Dr Lorraine Lighton of Public Health England said: “Visiting a farm is a very enjoyable experience for both children and adults alike but it's important to remember that contact with farm animals carries a risk of infection because of the germs they carry.

“Anyone visiting a petting farm should be aware of the need to wash their hands thoroughly using soap and water after handling animals or even being near them. Children are more at risk of serious illness and should be closely supervised to make sure that they wash their hands thoroughly.

“It is also very important not to rely on hand gels and wipes for protection as these are not suitable against the sort of germs found on farms.”

Do not eat or drink while on site. Don’t put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while petting animals or walking round the farm.

Don't kiss farm animals or allow children to put their faces close to animals Do not eat anything that has fallen on the floor.

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Gel and wipes do not kill the bug.

Remove and clean boots or shoes that might have become soiled and clean pushchair wheels. Then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water Supervise children closely to ensure that they wash their hands thoroughly.

Eat and drink in picnic areas or cafes only.