On Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a health advisory concerning Cryptosporidium, or “crypto” infections linked to a farm in Northhampton County. Health officials report they are investigating gastrointestinal illness among members of the public who visited or volunteered at Heaven on Earth Farm in Easton.
At least 5 laboratory-confirmed Cryptosporidium infections, and at least 16 compatible illnesses, have been associated with this farm. Additional illnesses are suspected to have occurred and investigation is ongoing.
The farm received young goats and calves in mid-February 2017 that required frequent bottle feedings, and solicited assistance from the public via Facebook. It is possible that hundreds of people were exposed to infected animals and their manure while helping to care for the animals.
Heaven on Earth posted on it’s Facebook page: In the past 4 years Heaven on Earth Farm has had the pleasure of meeting so many of you. There has been a ton of love & support that visited the property at any given time. We have decided that it is in our best interest close the farm to the public so that we can focus on the well being of the animals.
Then on Saturday, the farm responded to a report by Morning Call’s Frank Warner calling his story misleading:
There is not an outbreak of Cryptosporidium. The illness can be picked up if you accidentally ingest fecal matter. This can happen by not properly washing your hands and clothes after visiting a daycare, hospital or a farm. As stated in the article, the parasite is spread by “the fecal-oral route”. This is a common farm related illness not specific to Heaven on Earth Farm.
There are SEVERAL unrelated cases of Crytosporidium in the area that are not linked to the farm.
It was our personal decision to close the farm to the public. We appreciate you all respecting our wishes at this time. We do not want visitors stopping by, petting or feeding any of our animals right now. If anyone has questions or concerns please text us, call us or privately message us.
The animals will miss all the love and attention they received from all of you. They will continue to be loved and cared for.
Anybody who currently has this illness, you are in our thoughts and we hope you feel better as soon as possible.
Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic infection caused by Cryptosporidium species. Frequent, nonbloody, watery diarrhea occurs most commonly, often associated with abdominal cramps, fatigue, vomiting, and anorexia. Fever and vomiting may be more common among children. Asymptomatic infections occur. In immunocompetent persons, infection is self-limiting, usually lasting 1-20 days. Symptoms can wax and wane. Immunosuppressed persons may have severe diarrhea that results in malnutrition, dehydration, and death, especially in persons with HIV infection.
Cryptosporidium oocysts are found in a variety of hosts, including humans, livestock, birds and reptiles. The organism is shed in feces. Transmission can occur from direct exposure to farm animals or to their manure. Proper hand hygiene after animal contact is important to prevent infection. Use of hand sanitizer is not adequate and in some outbreaks has been paradoxically shown to increase infection risk; handwashing with hot water and soap is preferred. Person-toperson transmission also occurs, particularly in house-holds and in childcare centers. Contact with contaminated surfaces such as bathroom fixtures or changing tables can transmit the parasite. Waterborne outbreaks have been associated with contamination of municipal water supplies and with exposure to contaminated swimming pools because the organism is resistant to chlorine disinfection. People with diarrhea should not swim in public lakes and pools.
The median incubation period is seven days, with a range of two to 14 days. Oocysts can be shed in the stool for up to two weeks after symptoms resolve.