Wales: More than 160 mountain bikers made sick by sheep droppings


More than 160 mountain bikers were struck down by sickness after mud on a dirt track was contaminated with sheep droppings.

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Last Updated: 7:55PM GMT 02 Dec 2008

Public health inspectors were called in after the cyclists fell ill with food poisoning after an event in the Welsh countryside.

The cyclists tested positive for the bacterium campylobacter usually caused by uncooked meat and poultry.

But following an investigation by health experts, the muddy mountain cycle course was found to be heavily contaminated with sheep droppings.

The cyclists are believed to have been affected by eating meals and snacks during the event without washing their hands first.

A report by the National Public Health Service for Wales said: "We were alerted after being told eight of the bikers had become unwell after the event.

"At that point we launched an internet based questionnaire to investigate the outbreak."

More than 660 mountain bikers from all over Britain took part in the Builth Wells Mountain Biking Marathon in Powys in July this year.

A total of 355 responses were received with 161 cyclists reporting symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting.

Andrew Lloyd, 27, said: "A lot of the lads were really ill they are fit men but this hit them for six.

"It wasn't until everyone got together until we realised how many had been affected.

"But I don't know what you can do about it - how do you stop sheep walking on footpaths on hills."

The report, by the NPHSW, concluded the outbreak was caused by campylobacter spread to the cyclists by mud which was contaminated with sheep faeces.

Heavy overnight rain is likely to have contributed to the outbreak by increasing the amount of liquid mud on the course.

The report recommended cyclists to eat out of protective wrappers at future events.

It also called for organisers to re-route courses to avoid areas heavily contaminated with droppings.

Dr Sian Griffiths of the NPHSW said: "We hope that this report and the recommendations within it will help reduce the risk of something like this happening again."



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