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Parasite outbreak cases in Devon double to 46

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Cases of cryptosporidiosis in Devon have risen to 46 while 100 people have reported symptoms

The number of confirmed cases of a waterborne disease in south Devon has more than doubled, health officials say.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said cases of cryptosporidiosis, an illness that causes prolonged diarrhoea, had risen to 46.

More than 100 people have also reported symptoms, it said.

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It comes after South West Water (SWW) chief executive Susan Davy said she was “truly sorry” and admitted the company had “fallen significantly short”.

A reservoir is being drained while the cause of a parasite outbreak in Devon is investigated

About 16,000 homes and businesses have been advised to boil water before drinking it until further notice.

SWW said it was draining the Hillhead reservoir and the wider Alston area of Brixham was still being investigated as a potential cause for the outbreak.

Infections from the parasite can be caused by drinking contaminated water or swallowing it in swimming pools or streams.

The company previously said a faulty valve might have allowed a parasite to make its way into the water network.

Kayley Lewis said her son had been taken to A&E after vomiting blood

Kayley Lewis said her 13-year-old son had been admitted to hospital after blood was found in his vomit.

She said her family had started becoming sick on 5 May – 10 days before the water firm advised residents in Brixham to start boiling their water after traces of cryptosporidium were found in part of its network.

Ms Lewis said the past fortnight had been “scary”.

“It was really worrying because blood and sick for a child gives red alerts,” she said.

“Every time he would take a sip of water it would come straight back up.

“He is going OK now but he is still getting headaches now and then.”

‘Very painful’ illness

Ms Lewis said she had lost about 6lb (3kg) since she first started showing symptoms.

She said: “I was poorly for six days straight… My other son was crying on the floor in pain – he is autistic so he didn’t know what was going on.

“It’s very, very painful, it’s not just when you have a bug, it is constant.”

Ms Lewis said SWW’s response to the issue had been “disgusting”.

In a statement, Ms Davy said: “To those in the affected area and our customers across the South West, I am truly sorry for the disruption and wider anxiety this has caused.

“While incidents like these are thankfully very rare, our customers expect a safe, clean, and reliable source of drinking water.”

South West Water has been handing out bottles of water in the affected area

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said there would be “very, very hard questions” for the water company to answer.

“More answers” would be obtained for the public, Ms Atkins said.

“At the moment we probably need to give them space to conduct their investigation – the public will want to know how on earth a source happened, what was the chain of events that led to this?” she said.

“The message of reassurance is that this sort of outbreak really is rare for drinking water.”

‘Heads have to roll’

Anthony Mangnall, Conservative MP for Totnes and South Devon, said heads were “going to have to roll” over the cryptosporidiosis outbreak.

He said although he was unable to “give the sentence before I give the verdict” it was important to find out what had happened for it to go wrong.

“From the handling thus far to the delays in communication with the community to the denial at the beginning makes me deeply concerned about the management at South West Water,” Mr Mangnall said.

“That to me is pretty indicative that at some point heads are going to have to roll over this.”

Stephen Cole-Mansfield said he was “very concerned” by cancellations

Stephen Cole-Mansfield, a guesthouse owner in Brixham, said the parasite outbreak had “killed business overnight”.

“We are empty – it has been devastating, we are starting to ramp up for the season and we have no business,” he said.

“It has been badly portrayed, and it has affected the hospitality business across Brixham.

“It is in a small part of Brixham which doesn’t even affect us.”

Mr Cole-Mansfield said he had not received any information regarding compensation.

“This is a direct result of their under-investment, lack of testing and the fact we have a severely antiquated sewage system in the area which needs updating,” he said.

“It needs sorting out.”

SWW said affected customers would be given £115 in compensation and the amount available would be kept under review.

Sally Dart, who runs homewares shop Flotsam 50 near Brixham Harbour, said business was “probably 30 to 40% down” and the situation was “appalling”.

“No-one was checking the quality of the water and we’ve all got sick and it’s stupid, really,” she added.

Duncan Kenny said he wanted better communication from South West Water

Duncan Kenny, co-owner of non-profit conservation shop The Cove, said he had received no communication from SWW apart from one leaflet.

“If any business, of any kind, at any time, is affected by a causation that could have been prevented, that causation is responsible,” he said.

Michael Smith, co-owner of the Venus Cafe near Brixham, said he had seen a 40% drop in business in the last two days and had not been contacted by SWW “in any fashion”.

“During the week, at the minute we’re not super busy, but we’re losing four, five hundred pounds per day the last couple of days,” he said.

“Come the weekend, sunshine next week and the week after, we’re talking many thousands.”

‘Importance of hygiene’

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Torbay’s Director of Public Health, said he expected “upwards of 100” additional cases in the coming days.

“We may continue to see people having symptoms despite the fact that we have identified what we think is the most credible cause and that we have taken the appropriate public health actions to stop further contamination,” he said.

“The next key objective is to make sure it does not then spread person to person – that’s why we are still stressing the importance of hand hygiene, of excluding from school and work… and also not to swim if you’ve had recent diarrhoea.”

Dr Bayad Nozad, a consultant in health protection at the UKHSA, asked people not to contact medical services unless they needed “urgent clinical care”.

“If your symptoms last longer than seven days, or if you experience more severe symptoms such as blood in your poo, please contact your doctor who may recommend taking a sample for testing,” he said.

“Those with symptoms should stay off nursery, school and work for 48 hours since the last episode.

“Anyone with diarrhoea should not go swimming for 14 days after the last episode of illness.”

Source: BBC

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