Pregnant women should avoid close contact with animals giving birth, according to Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns.

The Scottish Government has issued annual advice for a number of years that pregnant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing may risk their own health, and that of their unborn child, from infections that can occur in some ewes.

"Although the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with an infected animal is extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks and take appropriate precautions," said Dr Burns.

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"These risks are not only associated with sheep, nor confined only to the spring, when the majority of lambs are born. Cattle and goats that have recently given birth can also carry similar infections."

Dr Burns added: "Pregnant women should seek immediate medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, or if they are concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment."

To avoid the possible risk of infection, pregnant women are advised that they should:

l Not help to lamb or milk ewes, or to provide assistance with a cow that is calving, or a nanny goat that is kidding.

l Avoid contact with aborted or new-born lambs, calves or kids, or with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or materials (such as bedding) contaminated by such birth products

l Avoid handling (including washing) clothing, boots or any materials that may have come into contact with animals that have recently given birth, their young or afterbirths.

l Ensure partners who are attending lambing ewes or other animals giving birth take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and clothing, and adequate washing to remove any potential contamination.

Market round-up

United Auctions sold 1219 store bullocks at Stirling on Wednesday to a top of 266p per kg and an average of 212.6p (+19.7p on the previous sale), while 748 store heifers peaked at 259.1p and levelled at 203.9p (+12.6p).

In the rough ring 221 cast cows averaged 132.7p.