When and how to test for cryptosporidium

Tanya Matthews and her husband
Tanya Matthews and her husband Michael -Credit:Tanya Matthews

The number of confirmed cases of cryptosporidium following an outbreak in Brixham is expected to continue to rise over the coming days. Hundreds of people continue to report on social media that they've experienced symptoms associated with the parasite that has infected water supplies - and some are still ill.

The latest data supplied by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) was publicised yesterday, May 15, when it announced 22 confirmed cases. It is not clear where those people live but the 'majority' are in Brixham, according to the agency.

According to social media, those affected are not just local residents but those who have visited the area recently on day trips and holidays. The source of the outbreak is confirmed as contaminated tap water.

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South West Water (SWW) confirmed yesterday it had detected 'small traces' of the organism in Alston and the Hillhead area of Brixham. No further update has been provided or a list of affected postcodes.

The previous day SWW stated that all its water supply tests had come back clear and that customers should continue to use their water as normal. Those in affected areas have now been told to boil water before drinking it.

Testing advice issued by the UKHSA states that people should wait to be tested until they are still symptomatic between seven to 10 days of becoming unwell.

The advice remains for those with symptoms to take precautions and stay off school or work for 48 hours since the last episode of illness and away from swimming pools for 14 days. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea, stomach pains, dehydration, weight loss and fever, which can last for two to three weeks.

The UKHSA advice that the majority of people will be able to stay at home without requiring medical intervention or advice. However, anyone who has severe symptoms such as bloody diarrhoea is advised to contact NHS 111 or their GP surgery.

Tanya Matthews is being tested for cryptosporidium -Credit:Tanya Matthews
Tanya Matthews is being tested for cryptosporidium -Credit:Tanya Matthews

Among those waiting to receive test results for cryptosporidium is Tanya Matthews who told DevonLive on Tuesday that she been suffering from stomach cramps and diarrhoea for the past nine days. Tanya lives in Ocean View in Higher Brixham and claims every home in her street has come down with the same symptoms.

She said: "I picked up my test post yesterday, May 16, and I will take it in today. My GP wanted me to wait until day 10 after I contacted the surgery and had an eConsult.

"Everyone I know who has been or is being tested has been told to go through their GP. The results are then sent off but I have not been told how long it will take for the results to come back.

"I am now feeling okay but my husband has not got out of bed since Tuesday."

Also awaiting a test result is Brixham resident Natalie Lord. She recalled: "It started with my husband on May 4. He had diarrhoea and severe stomach cramps for about three days.

"Then our six-year-old daughter had it on May 11 but it only lasted the day. Our two-year-old daughter had diarrhoea on May 3, but we didn't think much of it at the time but she's had it on and off since. She's not eating a lot and isn't well at all.

"I first had diarrhoea on May 7 and bad stomach cramps which lasted three days, then I was okay until yesterday [May 15]. We've all had a cough with it as well.

"Myself and our two-year-old are doing samples for the doctor but he said it is most likely cryptosporidium."

A resident who lives in Hillhead, Brixham and asked not to be named, told on Tuesday how she has been bed-bound for over a week and has tested positive for cryptosporidium by her doctor.

She said: "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 of until I saw the post on Brixham Fish Town (Facebook)."