Gran, 80, rushed to hospital after severe vomiting from Brixham cryptosporidium contamination

The new bottled water staton at Freshwater Quarry Car Park -Credit:Chris Slack
The new bottled water staton at Freshwater Quarry Car Park -Credit:Chris Slack

An 80-year-old grandmother was rushed to hospital following a severe bout of dehydration and vomiting after drinking water contaminated with cryptosporidium. Elaine Hollier is one of the suspected hundreds of people in Brixham suffering from sickness and diarrhoea after South West Water confirmed a parasitic outbreak in the town yesterday (May 15).

Husband of six decades, Dennis Hollier, said Elaine was "absolutely diabolical," adding that he himself was "worried sick" over his wife's condition. "For four days I was trying to help her but I got so worried I phoned 111. The hospital didn't know how to treat her because they didn't know what was infecting her.

"She had severe stomach pains and could hardly talk because she was so dehydrated. As soon as they confirmed there was a bug in the water the doctors said 'we know how to treat you now'. I have been worried sick, I was even told to stay away from the hospital because they didn't know what it was."

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Dennis told the Mirror: "I phoned up South West Water to tell them what happened but they said you can carry on drinking the water. I know 10 people at least who have come down with it."

Shop worker Jemma Michaels, 28, expressed her frustration: "It's absolute chaos in the town, I can't buy a single bottle of water, people can't shower or wash their hands. It's like third world conditions here. I think it's disgusting that we weren't told about this until yesterday, so many people in the town are ill."

She also highlighted the impact on local businesses: "This town relies on tourism but restaurants and hotels are having bookings cancelled because people don't want to come here and get sick, it's disgraceful."

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Around 16,000 households in Brixham have been advised not to drink or consume any water before it has been boiled and allowed to cool completely after confirming at least 22 cases of cryptosporidium in parts of Brixham. Hundreds of residents are said to be suffering from symptoms, which include watery diarrhoea, stomach pains, dehydration, weight loss and fever, which can last for two to three weeks.

South West Water has said it is "working around the clock" to try and restore the water supply back to normal and, though it has not yet confirmed the source of the outbreak, it is "currently focused on the water network in the Hillhead area".

The water company confirmed yesterday (May 15) that "small traces" of cryptosporidium, a parasite, had been found in water samples across the Hillhead and Alston areas. Today, Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall, said publicly on Facebook that the cause is said to be a damaged air valve in the Hillhead area. He added the valve "may have allowed animal waste or contaminated groundwater to enter the local supply".

A SWW spokesperson said: "We are conducting enhanced monitoring and physical checks of our network and storage tanks. We will continue to work around the clock to restore supplies to normal. We will keep customers updated via our website and social media."

When asked how the water became infected, it replied: "We are working hard to establish the cause and are currently focused on our water network in the Hillhead area based on the water quality monitoring data and the pattern of illnesses reported by UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)."