BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. -
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is investigating after several people who spent time at the Heaven on Earth animal rescue farm in Bethlehem Township got sick.
Health officials say they have confirmed close to two dozen stomach-related illnesses.
The illness in question is a parasite that is spread by the fecal to oral route. The parasite can be found in water, food, soil or on surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces of human or animals infected with the parasite.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Heaven on Earth Farm on Bethman Road got a few young goats and calves in mid-February. The animals needed several bottle feedings so the farm asked for volunteers to help via Facebook.
State health officials say it is possible that hundreds of people were exposed to the infected animals and their manure while helping to care for the animals.
The Department of Health says at least five laboratory-confirmed Cryptosporidium infections and at least 16 compatible illnesses have been associated with the farm.
The health department is continuing their investigation.
69 News reached out to the Heaven on Earth Farm.
Robert. a volunteer, spoke on behalf of the farm.
"First and foremost you know all the families and the kids that may have been sick with this parasite, we just want to say our hearts are with them and that our prayers are with them and we hope everyone gets back on their feet as soon as possible," he said.
Robert also said many at the farm are unsure how some people got sick.
"We can't definitively say that they picked up the parasite from the farm, because it's a common parasite" Robert said.
Heaven on Earth has since decided to voluntarily close the farm to the public.
While closed to the public, the farm said it will continue to care for rescued animals.
Robert said the owner of the farm has saved more than 100 animals over the last few years and is upset by the Health Departments findings.
"This whole situation has been eating him up because his heart has always been in the right place," said Robert.
A GoFundMe page benefiting the farm has so far raised over $2,000.
Health officials say anyone who may have become ill since visiting the farm should contact the state Department of Health and their own doctor.
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