Cryptosporidium outbreak in Brixham as ‘hundreds’ fall ill’

Brixham locals have reported a selection of symptoms including severe diarrhoea (Image: DevonLive)

An alarming number of residents in a seaside town claim to have been struck down with severe diarrhoea, stomach cramps, and fever because of a suspected cryptosporidium outbreak.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is currently investigating the health scare in Brixham, South Devon. South West Water (SWW) has reassured the public that drinking water is safe, with all tests for cryptosporidium returning negative results.

Cryptosporidium, a parasite found in the intestines of humans and animals, can spread through contaminated water or food, leading to outbreaks.

A spokesman for SWW said: « We are aware of posts on social media regarding the quality of drinking water in the Brixham area and we would like to reassure customers that the water supply is fine to continue to use as normal.

« We have carried out sampling and tests for cryptosporidium and all results have come back clear. We always carefully monitor our drinking water supplies and we are supporting the UK Health Security Agency with their investigations. »

The exact number of cryptosporidium cases remains unconfirmed. However, the community Facebook page Brixham Fish Town is flooded with comments from locals reporting symptoms.

Reports of illness in Paignton are also surfacing. It appears that many cases are concentrated in Higher Brixham, with many residents telling DevonLive they have experienced prolonged illness.

Tanya Matthews, a resident of Ocean View, in Higher Brixham, claimed every household in her street is experiencing the same symptoms. SWW conducted a water quality test at her home this morning, with results expected tomorrow.

Ms Matthews, who is awaiting a cryptosporidium test, said: « I started having stomach cramps and explosive diarrhoea nine days ago and it has been the same every day since. I started to feel a little bit better yesterday then today it hit me again.

« I rang SWW yesterday [May 13] and I was told there had been 15 confirmed cases of cryptosporidium and that UKHSA are looking into it as they don’t believe it’s to do with the water. »

« They wouldn’t expect this many cases over a whole year for all of Devon and Cornwall so something is amiss. SWW asked if I had been in the sea or a river but I have not. I also think the water tastes funny and it has been leaving a horrid taste in my mouth. »

Ms Matthews’ post on Brixham Fish Town Facebook attracted more than 1,000 comments, with many reporting similar symptoms.

« I posted about it to see how many other people may have had these symptoms without realising and thinking it’s just a tummy bug, » she said.

« I know some people have been to GPs and been told they have food poisoning which most likely is not the case so have not been asked for a sample to have it tested.

« When SWW came out today, they told me they don’t think it’s the water. I don’t know how that’s possible when every house in our street has someone who is ill. So many people are sick in the area. »

« My husband has it too. My son is doing his GCSEs and I’m worried about what happens if he gets poorly too. »

Another resident of Ocean Drive, Kayley Lewis, shared her family’s ordeal.

She revealed: « My eldest son Jacob was the first one of us to be poorly. He ended up in hospital overnight with severe dehydration on May 5. I then started to feel unwell on May 6 and had awful stomach pains and watery diarrhoea lasting six days. »

« My other son Oscar is doing his SATs exams this week but I am having to drop him off just to sit his exam and then pick him up due to him still having diarrhoea and cramps. Both my boys have missed a lot of school due to it too.

« My youngest daughter Daisy has only had stomach cramps. I took in my sample this morning to the doctors and they have said every sample is now going to a team that is investigating. »

A resident from Hillhead, Brixham, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was confined to bed for over a week after testing positive for cryptosporidium.

She recounted: « I’ve been bed-bound for eight days with sickness and diarrhoea and have been signed off work for two weeks and lost over a stone in weight. It’s the worst illness I’ve ever experienced.

« I originally thought it was norovirus but as it went on for so long, I had to contact the doctors. I sent off a stool sample which came back as cryptosporidium, which I had never heard off until I saw the post on Brixham Fish Town.

« I phoned SWW who said it was the first they had heard of it even though everyone has been phoning. Public health have told me I’ll be getting a phone call from environmental health but we are still waiting.

« It seems the majority of people affected are from Hillhead and Higher Brixham. »

Dean James, of Northfields Lane, Furzeham, said his family has been suffering from illness since last Saturday, May 11, with the situation now affecting their means of making a living.

He revealed: « It has not been a nice experience. We have had diarrhoea and vomiting, severe stomach cramps, high temperature and gunning a fever.

« My partner and I are both off work and have no sick pa. My partner has no sick pay for the first three days and I’m self-employed. All this when we are experiencing a high cost of living. »

« Some of my neighbours have become suddenly unwell. We have been told to ring public health and report cases and also to boil all water for drinking.

« Looking at Facebook, cases are now appearing all over Brixham and starting to appear in Paignton too. »

An anonymous resident of Brixham added: « My whole family – myself, my partner and my two children – have been affected. We have had diarrhoea, stomach cramps and vomiting for more than 10 days, as have many people on our street including several diagnosed cases of cryptosporidium. »

« It seems to be mainly affecting people in households in Higher Brixham. I spoke to our GP at Mayfield Surgery who confirms they have had many cases and have reported it to the relevant authorities as it is so prevalent. »

Anthony Mangnall, MP for Totnes, which includes Brixham, told DevonLive he is aware of the recent illness outbreak among Brixham residents and is currently making enquiries.

In a post on his official Facebook page, he said: « I have been made aware of current concerns regarding the quality of drinking water in Brixham and have been making enquiries.

« 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 yet to comment on the matter.

Source link