The UK’s Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) has tested feces from lambs, pigs, goats, cattle, ponies and rabbits at Godstone Farm near Surrey and found the dangerous E. coli O157:H7 strain in 33 of 102 samples. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) called in VLA.
"Joint HPA and VLA investigations have confirmed the presence of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in feces from a wide range of animals on a premise in Surrey," said Nigel Gibbens, chief veterinary officer.
The number of children infected with E. coli O157:H7 while visiting Godstone Farm has increased to 67. According to BBC News, eight children remain in hospitals across Southeast England "in stable or improving conditions."
The injured are now coming forward to take legal action. Claims will be filed totaling hundreds of thousands of pounds, according to lawyers for the various families. "It is not simply about financial compensation, although that is a part of it," said Solicitor Jill Greenfield, who represents an unnamed young girl. "Some of these children could have long term medical conditions for which they will need financial compensation."
"But it’s far too early to tell with any of them because E. coli is a bit of a slow burner," Solicitor Greenfield continued. "So at the moment it’s about establishing what happened, establishing the facts and finding out why so many children ended up in the hospital with E. coli."
After controversy erupted over how long it took to close Godstone Farm to the public, three other farms with petting zoos have closed. Horton Park Children’s Farm in Epsom, which is under the same ownership as Godstone Farm; White Post Farm in Nottinghamshire; and World Country Life Farm in Exmouth, Devon are now all shut down.
HPA, the leading investigator in the UK, believes the outbreak began on Aug. 8 at Godstone Farm. Godstone Farm closed Sept. 12th. Critics say the HPA allowed the petting zoo to remain open far too long.
All 67 cases in the outbreak are linked to Godstone Farm. Horton Park, its sister zoo, was closed down for "unsatisfactory" hygiene facilities. No illnesses are yet associated with Horton Park.