Health and Wellness

Brixham cryptosporidium outbreak: People urged to boil tap water after 22 confirmed cases in Devon town

People living in a seaside town in Devon are being urged to boil their tap water before use after the outbreak of a highly infectious virus.

South West Water has issued the notice to residents in two areas of Brixham after the UK Health Security Agency confirmed there had been 22 confirmed cases of cryptosporidium.

The figure is likely to rise further, warned the agency, with more reported cases currently under investigation.

Cryptosporidium is a diarrhea and vomitting illness that can be caused by drinking contaminated water. It can also be caught through animal and human contact.

In a statement, South West Water said: “Customers in Alston and the Hillhead area of Brixham are advised to boil their drinking water before consuming following new test results for cryptosporidium.

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“We are issuing this notice following small traces of the organism identified overnight and this morning. We are working with the UK Health Security Agency and other public health partners to urgently investigate and eliminate the source.

“We apologise for the inconvenience caused and will continue to keep customers and businesses updated. Bottled water stations will be set up in the affected areas as soon as possible.”

Brixham, which has a population of around 17,000 people, is a busy fishing harbour as well as popular holiday spot.

On social media pages, many residents in the town have shared concerns over suffering symptoms of the disease.

Anthony Mangnall, MP for Totnes, which includes Brixham, said he had been made aware over concerns over the quality of drinking water in the town.

Posting on Facebook, he said: “South West Water have reassured me that they are supporting the UK Health Security Agency with their investigations, and have stated that constituents can continue to use their water supply as normal.

“SWW carefully monitors drinking water supplies, and cryptosporidium is monitored continuously in the final drinking water from the supplying treatment facility.

“To confirm, all recent test results for cryptosporidium have come back clear. I will provide further updates when possible.”

The UKHSA has said symptoms of the virus include watery diarrhoea, stomach pains, dehydration, weight loss and fever, which can last for 2-3 weeks.

It is most common in young children aged between 1 and 5 years, and most healthy people will recover fully, the agency said.

Sarah Bird, consultant in health protection at UKHSA South West said: “We advise people in the affected areas to follow the advice from South West Water and boil their drinking water and allow to cool before use.

“Anyone with a diarrhoeal illness should drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and if they have severe symptoms like bloody diarrhoea, they should contact NHS 111 or their GP surgery.

“For most people, cryptosporidium symptoms can be managed at home without needing medical advice.

“Those affected should stay off school and work for 48hrs since the last episode of illness and away from swimming pools for 14 days after the last episode of illness.”

This is a breaking story – more to follow

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