Cryptosporidium outbreak cases in Devon rise to 100

SWW says its next stage of cleaning work is on the water main between the Boohay supply tank and Kingswear
-Credit: (Image: SWW)

The latest number of confirmed cases of cryptosporidium following an outbreak in Devon has now reached the 100 milestone. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has released the latest figures today, May 30, and says numbers are now slowing down.

It is an increase of 23 since its previous update issued on Friday, May 24, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 100. Yesterday, May 29, marked two weeks since South West Water (SWW) warned people not to drink tap water without first boiling it in the Alston and Hillhead areas of Brixham after the presence of cryptosporidium was confirmed.

Boil water notices are still in place for around 2,500 households in the Hillhead, upper parts of Brixham and Kingswear due to the outbreak. The cause of the outbreak is believed to be a damaged air valve on private land.

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The UKSHA has explained it can take between two to 12 days for people to become unwell after being exposed. Cases currently being confirmed are still from those who became unwell before the issue was identified and measures were put in place by SWW.

Sarah Bird, Consultant in Health Protection for UKHSA South West said: "The data shows the outbreak is associated with people who live in, or visited the boil water notice area of Brixham and the nearby areas before the notice was put in place. While further cases may be reported due to the time lag between exposure and falling ill, the number of cases being reported is slowing down."

Work is ongoing by SWW to resolve the issue. Over the past week, it has cleaned its reservoirs and flushed the network several times in an attempt to remove the remaining traces of cryptosporidium.

Water being flushed out in Ocean View Drive, Brixham, on May 20
Water being flushed out in Ocean View Drive, Brixham, on May 20 -Credit:Tanya Matthews

Today, May 30, in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, it said: "Our water quality samples are showing progress, however, further intense work is needed to fully remove any contamination. The next stage of this cleaning work will start tonight on the water main between the Boohay supply tank and Kingswear.

"The cleaning process being used for this is known as ‘ice-pigging’. This is when an ice solution is pushed along pipes using water pressure, aggressively cleaning every surface. For the specific type of pipework in the area, this process is quicker and more efficient than the traditional methods.

"In combination, these multiple cleaning solutions should help to fix the problem. We are sorry that this is taking time.

"We need to be absolutely confident we have fixed this problem before we can safely lift the boil water notice. Our teams continue to work around the clock to clean the network and to put interventions in place to prevent this from happening again. Our top priority is to return supply to the quality our customer expect and deserve, quickly and safely."

Those with symptoms of cryptosporidium, which include watery diarrhoea, stomach pains, nausea or vomiting and fever, the advice is should stay off nursery, school and work for 48 hours since the last episode of illness, and anyone with diarrhoea should not go swimming for 14 days after their last episode of illness.