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Cryptosporidium Outbreak in England Affects Dozens; South West Water Under Investigation

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Cryptosporidium is a parasite that can cause sickness and diarrhea if consumed. The parasite can contaminate drinking water due to various reasons.

At least 46 cases of cryptosporidium infection have been confirmed in England, linked to contaminated water. Authorities including Torbay Council, South West Water, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), NHS Devon, and the Environment Agency are investigating the outbreak. There have been approximately 100 additional reports of diarrhea and vomiting.

Initially, South West Water reported no issues with treated water quality at their treatment works. However, traces of cryptosporidium were later found in the Hillhead section of their network. A damaged valve on private land in the Hillhead supply area was identified as the likely cause of contamination and has since been repaired.

Tests in the Alston water supply area found no traces of cryptosporidium. A sample analyzed by a third-party laboratory also revealed no contamination.

South West Water issued a boil water notice affecting around 17,000 households and businesses, primarily in Brixham, Boohay, Kingswear, Roseland, and North West Paignton. An update to the notice now allows around 14,500 households in the Alston supply area to use tap water as normal, while approximately 2,500 properties in Hillhead, Brixham, and Kingswear are still advised to boil their drinking water.

Sarah Bird, a health protection consultant at UKHSA South West, stated that investigations are ongoing to determine the source of infection and implement control measures.

“For most people, cryptosporidium symptoms can be managed at home without needing medical advice,” Bird said. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, stomach pains, dehydration, weight loss, and fever, which can last for two to three weeks. Anyone can get cryptosporidiosis, but it is most common in young children aged between 1 and 5 years old, and most healthy people will recover fully. 

People are advised to boil water for drinking, preparing food, and cleaning teeth. Bottled water is being offered to residents.

Source: FSN

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