‘It was as painful as childbirth’: Victims of cryptosporidium contaminated water crisis reveal what is really like to be hit by stomach parasite


Victims of the Devon contaminated water crisis say they’ve been left with stomach so painful one woman even compared it to giving birth.

The mystery illness is believed to be linked to cryptosporidium, a parasitic bug that that can enter water supplies via contaminated faecal matter. 

Health authorities have detected at least 22 cases of cryptosporidium infection in the town of Brixham, home to about 17,000 people. 

South West Water has now told residents in the town of Boohay, Kingswear, Roseland and north-east Paignton to boil their drinking water to avoid the faecal-borne parasite which is believed to have infiltrated water supplies. 

But the advice came too late for some residents and who have been wracked with diarrhoea and other a gastrointestinal symptoms like cramps for days. 

South West Water has set up bottled water stops for residents to pick up water if they are unable to boil it at home

South West Water has set up bottled water stops for residents to pick up water if they are unable to boil it at home

84917331 13424791 image a 9 1715848043192

A suspected outbreak of cryptosporidium is believed to be affecting hundreds of people in Brixham (pictured)

Brixham resident Lisa Horswill even compared the pain to giving birth.  

‘It’s worst after you’ve just eaten. Then the diarrhoea just empties you out and the stomach cramps kick in, which are so painful, like childbirth,’ she told inews

She added that although South West Water had offered them £15 in compensation, the family had already spent more than that on bottled water.  

Another resident, Michaela Lewis, said her five-year-old daughter had been suffering cryptosporidium infection symptoms for 12 days.

‘What does this sort of thing do to such a young person’s stomach? It can’t be good for young children,’ she said.

Locals also told MailOnline they started experiencing symptoms around two weeks ago. 

Retiree Kathy Hudson, 67, said: ‘I have been ill since last week with cramps, diarrhoea, sickness and dizziness. My daughter-in-law has also got ill.

‘I don’t want to know what is in the water I have been drinking but now they are saying not to wash your hands, can you shower? What’s it going to do to you?’

To make matters worse Kathy says she hasn’t been able to buy any bottled water as panic buyers have stripped shelves in the town’s supermarkets.

She added: ‘There is no water left in any of the shops in town.’

Fellow Brixham resident Meg Dew said: ‘My 62-year-old mum called me about half an hour ago, she has a bad stomach and diarrhoea.

‘My friends have been ill since the Pirate Festival (4th to 6th May), I didn’t even know until this morning that there was anything wrong with the water.

‘South West Water needs to sort it out, bills are high but for nothing.’ 

Schools in the area have now been forced to close as they cannot supply pupils with water

South West Water initially claimed its treatment works were not to blame but has since backtracked – prompting fury from local Tory MP Anthony Mangnall, who said its initial failure to act had been ‘enormously frustrating’.

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, director of public health for Torbay, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he is ‘optimistic’ about the outbreak being under control. 

He said: ‘This was reported as an outbreak on Tuesday morning and by Wednesday we had a credible source that it was likely to be a reservoir serving the TQ5 postcode such as Brixham and neighbouring areas.

South West Water apologised to customers and gave them detailed advice on how to eliminate illness-causing organisms from their water

South West Water apologised to customers and gave them detailed advice on how to eliminate illness-causing organisms from their water

‘South West Water has been investigating and continues to test. This is of course an ongoing situation, but we are pretty certain at this point with the boil water notice and ongoing investigation and remediation of water supply there that the primary source would have stopped.

‘What we are now focusing on is making sure we don’t have any spread from those initial cases.’

Dr Sargeant added that the full picture on how the cryptosporidium got into the water supply will come after probes have been completed.

‘The definitive answers to that [why the disease hit this area] will come when South West Water will be able to do their investigations. 

‘Cryptosporidium exists in the environment. Sometimes when you have lots of rain it might get into the water system but usually through rigorous testing and water treatment it is usually picked up.

‘We are very optimistic [it is under control]. Some of the key measures such as identifying the primary source – that is in hand.’

Conservative MP for Totnes and South Devon Anthony Mangnall has slammed the 'enormously frustrating' pace at which South West Water has sought to address the outbreak

Conservative MP for Totnes and South Devon Anthony Mangnall has slammed the ‘enormously frustrating’ pace at which South West Water has sought to address the outbreak

It is thought hundreds of residents are experiencing a range of symptoms including watery diarrhoea, stomach pains, nausea or vomiting, a mild fever, and loss of appetite.

A South West Water spokesperson 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. 

‘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.’

Medics technically call a cryptosporidium infection cryptosporidiosis.

Sufferers often have to endure these symptoms for two weeks before it is finally clear from their systems.

But some patients can experience longer bouts of illness for those people with weakened immune systems like cancer patients. 

Victims can also experience periods of false hope where their symptoms clear for a few days, making them believe they are finally over the infection, only for it to return. 

Most people with cryptosporidiosis aren’t offered treatment and are instead told to drink plenty of fluids and minimise contact with other people while waiting until symptoms pass. 

People are typically infected via contact with faeces containing the parasite, either from humans or animals, that then enters their mouth. 

These infected faeces often come into contact with people by contamination of lakes, streams, swimming pools and, as appears to be the case in Devon, water supplies.

People can also get it by caring for people infected with the parasite, particularly young children. 

Risk of water supplies becoming infected is higher following periods of heavy rainfall and when animals are giving birth, such as the lambing season.  

Other possible sources of infection are contact with infected milk, or from vegetables that have been fertilised with infected animal manure and not washed thoroughly. 

Patients with the infection are told to stay off work and school until they have been symptom-free for at least two days to avoid passing the bug on to others. 

As crypto can survive in faecal matter for long periods of time sufferers are asked not to go swimming until two weeks after their diarrhoea has stopped.

This includes both natural bodies of water as well as swimming pools as traces of infected dried poo can wash off an infected swimmer’s anus.

Infected people can shed up to 100million cryptosporidium germs in a single bowel movement, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And swallowing just 10 is enough to get ill.

What is Cryptosporidium?

Cryptosporidium parasites are protected by a thick shell that allows them to survive in chlorinated swimming pool water

Cryptosporidium parasites are protected by a thick shell that allows them to survive in chlorinated swimming pool water

Cryptosporidium, also known as Crypto, are tiny parasites that live in water and enter the body through food or drink.

They cause an illness called Cryptosporidiosis, with the most common symptom being watery diarrhoea. It can also cause nausea, vomiting and fever.

Symptoms usually last about two weeks, but can go on longer. Young children and people with weak immune systems are more likely to be more seriously affected.

The parasites are protected by a thick outer shell that allows them to survive outside the body. In cool, moist conditions, they can live for several months.

They are also resistant to chlorine, so can live in swimming pools for up to a week.

Ingesting just 10 Cryptosporidium parasites is enough to make you ill

Ingesting just 10 Cryptosporidium parasites is enough to make you ill 

Outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis have been linked to drinking or swimming in contaminated water. Foods prepared with contaminated water, such salads that are washed with it, can also be a danger.

Farmers who handle livestock can also be at risk, as the infection can be caught from cows, goats and sheep – particularly lambs.

Once they are swallowed, the Cryptosporidium shells break open and the parasites are released.

However, some of the parasites will pass through a person’s digestive system intact, so infection can occur by ingesting poo particles from an infected person, such as by changing nappies of a poorly baby.

Infected people can shed up to 100 million parasites in a single bowel movement. Swallowing just ten is enough to get ill.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) provides advice on controlling outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis and monitors outbreaks to find the source.



Source link