‘Mud run’ competitors warned of infection risk

Participants may come in contact with animal faeces in events on farmland, says HSE

Runners have been advised not to swallow surface water or mud and to wash immediately after a “mud run”. Photograph: iStock

Runners have been advised not to swallow surface water or mud and to wash immediately after a “mud run”. Photograph: iStock

 

The HSE has issued a health warning about “mud runs” and other obstacle adventure courses after reports of infection among participants.

Runners have been advised not to swallow surface water or mud and to wash immediately after a race. They should also cover any cuts beforehand.

In a public health advice for organisers and participants, the HSE says mud runs often take place on farmland where runners can come into contact with “faeces, poop and urine” from animals. This puts them at risk of contracting serious infections such as E.coli, Weil’s disease or listeriosis.

Alternatively, a runner carrying an infection such as the winter vomiting bug could spread it to other participants if mud or water becomes contaminated, the note warns.

“Small amounts of contaminated water or mud may not cause any difficulty. However, some participants might swallow sufficient numbers of germs to cause infection.” An outbreak was reported at an event in Cork last year, and there have been anecdotal reports of other outbreaks in Ireland, according to the HSE.

Internationally, the problem of infections in adventure racing has begun to appear in the scientific literature. In France last year, more than 1,200 people reported acute gastroenteritis after an obstacle adventure race. The outbreak was blamed on the winter vomiting bug, probably spread by a participant.

Safety paramount

US studies have identified outbreaks of Weil’s disease after a swamp race in Florida and the vomiting bug among runners at an event in Michigan.

Ray O’Connor, race director of one of the best-known endurance challenges,Tough Mudder, says safety is paramount. No farm animals are allowed on the terrain four weeks beforehand, drinking water is used for water obstacles and the only streams used are natural ones.

At the Irish event earlier this year, 28 showers were provided and 55 doctors and other medical personnel were on hand, he said.