SCIENTISTS’ FEAR FOR UK FESTIVALS

The boffins are worried about the potential for viruses such as E.coli to spread at festivals such as Glastonbury...

Glastonbury and other outdoor UK summer festivals have come under fire from European scientists who fear hygiene measures are not up to scratch.

The scientists are worried about the potential for bacteria such as E.coli to spread amongst festival goers who have not washed their hands properly after coming into contact with ground that may have been contaminated with animal dung some time before. They see the biggest threat being faced by young children and the elderly.

Festival organisers already have to pass stringent health and safety conditions set by their local councils, but the scientists are said to be worried because strains of E.coli can remain active in cow dung for 30 days. Symptoms in humans can range from mild diarrhoea to huge changes in body fluids, leading to brain damage or kidney failure. Nine people out of the 100,000 festival goers at Glastonbury in 1997 were infected after torrential rain turned the fields of Eavis‘ dairy farm into a quagmire.

Speaking in today’s Guardian newspaper in the UK, Professor Mac Johnston, one of two British scientists sitting on the EU panel looking into the veterinary measures relating to public health recommended very simple means of control.

“Washing hands with soap and water is a very good control measure,” he said. “If you go to Glastonbury and it is as muddy as hell, the stuff gets everywhere. How many sinks do you need for washing 20,000 people?”

Professor Johnston denied it was an intention of the scientists to close down festivals but rather provide information that will guide political leaders in their decisions.

He added: “We are not politicians. We are saying: ‘Here are the risks, you decide what to put in the directive. You decide whether it is politically appropriate to ban pop concerts’.”

A spokesperson for organisers of the Glastonbury Festival, set to take place this year on the weekend of June 23, said that annually they met all conditions set by Mendip Council and have never had a serious problem.