Worms that turn out to be costly for employer

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A LEADING English hunt has paid compensation to a former employee who claimed his liver problems were caused by poor control of tapeworm in the hound pack.

Lawyers have been circulating details as a warning to hunts and farmers who run working dogs. They point out cattle and sheep could be carrying eggs from the same worms, making stock handlers vulnerable – and also eligible to sue.

They quote Defra figures showing more than nine per cent of hounds tested excreted the eggs of Echinococcus granulosus and there was a substantial risk of human handlers picking one up.

Brethertons of Banbury, Oxfordshire, represented Charles Wheeler, who worked 16 years for a “prestigious” Gloucestershire hunt, before moving to a Pacific island to start a fishing business.

He fell ill with serious chest and abdominal pains and was flown to Brisbane, Australia, where his problems were traced to “hydatid cysts”, on his liver, caused by the worm eggs.

He recalled the hounds he looked after would eat mainly raw meat and offal from dead sheep, which in turn were likely to have picked up eggs from dog faeces. The dogs were not wormed regularly, he said, because of financial constraints. The hunt recently settled out of court after five years of legal argument.

Sioban Calcott, a personal injury specialist at Brethertons, said: “It is no longer an excuse to argue that you cannot afford costly worming programmes. The fact of the matter is, you cannot afford not to.”

Felicity Wyatt, head of Brethertons’ agricultural division, said: “The disease is endemic in most of Europe. Sheep are important intermediate hosts, although this is also the case for cattle that graze on pastures contaminated with dog faeces.”