Brixham woman describes horrific suspected Cryptosporidium symptoms

SWW is issuing free bottled water to residents in Brixham
SWW is issuing free bottled water to residents in Brixham -Credit:Chris Slack

A Brixham resident who is yet to be formally diagnosed with cryptosporidium and lives within the confirmed affected areas of an outbreak has told of the 'horrific' pain she has endured over the past week and how she feels 'insulted' by South West Water's (SWW) compensation of £15 after being told her water was safe to drink.

Jenna, who lives in Raddicombe Close, near Hillhead, with her partner and their 18-month-old Cocker Spaniel Mirri, have all suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting recently, as have their neighbours. Today, May 15, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced the number of confirmed cases of cryptosporidium following an outbreak in Brixham has now risen by six to 22 cases.

Other reported cases of diarrhoea and vomiting among residents and visitors to Brixham are also said to be under investigation and more cases are expected to be confirmed. Cryptosporidium is a parasite which can cause sickness and diarrhoea.

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Earlier today, SWW confirmed it had detected 'small traces' of the organism in Alston and the Hillhead area of Brixham. Yesterday, May 14, it stated all its water supply tests had come back clear and that customers should continue to use their water as normal.

SWW says it is fully investigating the cause. Jenna, a 33-year-old HR employee claims that their water has had a 'funny taste' for the past few weeks.

She said: "Our entire street has all had symptoms, including our pets. It started when I noticed our water tasted funny and I developed a continuous cough at the beginning of April. I just thought I had picked up something.

"Just before Brixham Pirate Festival, which we did not go to, my partner started to feel unwell with stomach cramps and nausea. For me, my severe symptoms last Tuesday, May 7.

"I had the most horrific stomach pains and woke up screaming in agony. I had never experienced anything like it before; it was just awful. I then had terrible diarrhoea, vomiting and headaches and couldn't do anything so I had to take time off work.

"That continued for a good few days and then it subsided a little bit so I thought I was getting over it, but it comes in waves and the symptoms came back again. I still have stomach cramps today, a really bad headache and feel tired a lot of the time, but thankfully the diarrhoea and vomiting stopped last week.

"Our dog had diarrhoea and vomiting over last weekend. I didn't think too much of it at first as I thought it was due to the warm weather but then other neighbours said their pets, including rabbits had been poorly.

"I didn't go to the doctor as initially I thought it was food poisoning or a bug. I have got to pick up a sample kit from the doctors and it will then be sent off for testing.

"Some people in my road are completely bedridden and have had it for a good 14 days. There are at least 30 homes in Raddicombe Close and I know a substantial amount of people who have been affected in neighbouring roads and on Hillhead.

"What worrying about where we live is it's predominantly older people who are much more vulnerable and some don't have access to social media or are aware of what is going on so we have been looking out for one another. One neighbour has knocked on everyone's doors today to confirm only to drink bottled water."

A new South West Water map shows the area believed to be affected by an outbreak of Cryptosporidium
A new South West Water map shows the area believed to be affected by an outbreak of Cryptosporidium -Credit:South West Water

Jenna says their household stopped drinking water from the tap earlier this week after seeing concerns raised about people becoming unwell in the area on social media. However, she says the first communication she received from SWW was an email at 2pm today, May 15, advising not to drink tap water without first boiling it.

SWW published a notice on its website at 9am today advising customers in Alston and the Hillhead area of Brixham should boil their water following new test results for cryptosporidium. The map area pictured on its website has since increased but without any further details currently issued.

Jenna said: "What I find absolutely outrageous is that SWW said they tested the water at Hillhead yesterday, essentially calling everyone liars and said there was nothing in the water and it was safe to drink, then less than 24 hours later they have confirmed the water has tested positive."

According to Jenna, Brixham residents have been struggling to buy bottled water from local shops and supermarkets and says they are yet to be notified where SWW is setting up a bottled water station in their local area. The local Spar shop in the town has confirmed it is increasing its supplies to cope with demand.

Bottled water being unloaded in Paignton -Credit:Submitted
Bottled water being unloaded in Paignton -Credit:Submitted

SWW has confirmed all customers who have been issued with a Boil Water Notice will receive an automatic payment of £15 as part of its Customer Promise when services are interrupted. However, Jenna says the gesture is instead an insult to those whose lives have been severely impacted.

She said: "Being offered £15 is an insult. I don't think we should even be paying for our water bills as we don't have clean water. People have also had to take time off work, some without pay, and the cost of buying bottled water won't cover the compensation amount.

"SWW should have put precautionary measures in place and information given to those in local areas as soon as concerns were raised, but we had nothing at all from them. There has been a lack of communication and no support."

The UKHAS confirmed yesterday it was working with Torbay Council, South West Water, NHS Devon and the Environment Agency to investigate the cause of the outbreak and has issued health advice.

Sarah Bird, consultant in Health Protection at UKHSA South West said: “We advise people in the affected areas to follow the advice from South West Water and boil their drinking water and allow to cool before use.“Anyone with a diarrhoeal illness should drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and if they have severe symptoms like bloody diarrhoea, they should contact NHS111 or their GP surgery.

“Symptoms include: watery diarrhoea, 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 and most healthy people will recover fully.

“For most people, cryptosporidium symptoms can be managed at home without medical advice.“Those affected should stay off school and work for 48 hours since the last episode of illness and away from swimming pools for 14 days after the last episode of illness.”

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