An investigation is under way into a possible outbreak of E.coli which may have been responsible for a number of visitors to a Suffolk petting farm falling ill.

Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, between Great Blakenham and Needham Market, has been temporarily closed after four visitors became following close contact with the animals.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is investigating the matter and said Shiga toxin E.coli (STEC) and Cryptosporidium have been linked to the farm.

Sarah Weir, consultant in health protection at UKHSA East of England, said: “Visiting farms to meet the animals is a fun activity for all to enjoy and hand hygiene is the best way to avoid germs that may be passed from animals.

East Anglian Daily Times: The farm is a popular attractionThe farm is a popular attraction (Image: Archant)

"It is very important to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after touching or playing with animals and their surroundings such as gates and fences. Remember to wash hands thoroughly before eating or touching your face.

“Symptoms of STEC include severe diarrhoea (including bloody diarrhoea), stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. Contact NHS 111 if you or your child have bloody diarrhoea.

“Symptoms of cryptosporidium include watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps or pain, dehydration, nausea, vomiting and fever.

“Children under five should not attend school/nursery/group childcare until they have been free of sickness or diarrhoea for two days. Visits to hospital or care home settings should be avoided if you are feeling unwell.”

STEC can in some cases develop into life-threatening haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), most common in children under five.

It is highly infectious and can be spread through contact with infected animals or people. Cryptosporidium is caused by a parasite.

Anyone suffering symptoms is advised to drink plenty of fluids and avoid work, school, or other places until 48 hours after stopping vomiting or diarrhoea.

The farm announced its temporary closure on Facebook and said: "We are devastated to learn of four cases of illness in visitors to the farm and have decided to temporarily close while investigations are ongoing to determine the source."

It is understood the farm is working with public health and local authorities to implement extra control measures.