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Brixham: Water disease outbreak may last a week – and infected could be ill for up to a month, expert warns

Brixham: Water disease outbreak may last a week - and infected could be ill for up to a month, expert warns

Those infected after a water parasite outbreak in Devon could be ill for up to a month, an expert has told Sky News.

Residents in parts of Brixham were told to boil their drinking water on Thursday after 22 cases of cryptosporidiosis were confirmed in and around the area.

Professor Paul Hunter, a specialist in medical microbiology at the University of East Anglia, has now told Sky News the issue for water supplies could last at least a week, and that “it’s not unusual to be ill for a month” with the disease.

He explained if the parasite cryptosporidium – which causes cryptosporidiosis – is “a continuous thing” present in water supplies for a prolonged period, then “you’d expect to see more cases”.

South West Water said “small traces” of the parasite were found in the water supply in Devon on Wednesday.

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Residents ‘worried’ over water parasite

The water company added it was “urgently investigating” the findings in the Alston and Hillhead areas of the local water network – which supplies customers in Brixham, Boohay, Kingswear, Roseland and North West Paignton – and apologised for the inconvenience.

Prof Hunter added there is “no specific treatment” for the disease, which causes diarrhoea symptoms, and “there’s nothing we can do to shorten the length” of time people battle the illness.

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He also said most people “will get over it in two to four weeks” and swimming in the ocean is not likely to cause infection.

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South West Water workers at the reservoir site of Alston and Hillhead in Brixham, Devon, looking for cryptosporidium.

Those at most risk are “quite severely immunocompromised” or are children who “do get more problems” from the disease.

It comes after hundreds of people said on a local Facebook group have reported symptoms of cryptosporidiosis over the last week.

The UK Health Security Agency said 22 people are confirmed to have the disease, and as many as 70 other cases of diarrhoea and vomiting in residents and visitors to Brixham are also under investigation. More confirmed cases are expected.

Chaz Attwood, a resident near the Brixham reservoir, speaking to Sky News
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‘Keep drinking water. That’s made her worse. We’re in a dreadful state.’

‘The water’s made her worse’

Chaz Attwood, who lives near the affected reservoir, told Sky News that his wife has diabetes and has been ill for 16 days after drinking contaminated water.

“My wife has been drinking water to keep hydrated because she’s diabetic and the insulin that she’s had to have has doubled, and basically that affected her to start with,” he said.

“So keep drinking water. That’s made her worse. We’re in a dreadful state. She was so weak I even phoned 999, and told the guy what was happening because she’d collapsed.”

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David Sneyd, also a resident in the area and immunosuppressed, said he noticed “absolutely nothing until it was announced”.

He added that he had stomach cramps “for just over a week” and “didn’t think anything of it until a couple of days ago when it all sort of blew up through social media”.

Leaflets reminding locals in the affected areas to boil their tap water have been sent, but Mr Sneyd told Sky News he received his just last night.

David Sneyd, a resident near the Brixham reservoir, showing Sky News a leaflet warning locals to boil their tap water.

The leaflet also promises that customers affected will automatically receive a £15 payment from South West Water.

Anthony Mangnall, Conservative MP for Totnes and South Devon, said earlier on social media that South West Water’s response in Brixham “needs to be faster”.

He added: “I hope to see the system back up and running shortly & the compensation level increased beyond the current £15.”