Mum's warning after son became 'very ill' after holiday

Gemma Weston, Daniel Roper, Alfred Roper, left and Henry Roper
Gemma Weston, Daniel Roper, Alfred Roper, left and Henry Roper -Credit:Gemma Weston

A six-year-old boy dropped to the weight of a three-year-old after he caught a parasite.

Gemma Weston, husband Daniel Roper and their two sons, Alfred and Henry Roper, were part of a group of nine who travelled to Leicestershire to enjoy some time away during the Easter holidays. Mum Gemma, from Gateacre, said "everything was fine" until six-year-old Alfred woke up one morning complaining of a stomach ache.

Alfred then went on to suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea which the family initially put down to a stomach bug. However, Gemma grew concerned when Alfred's condition did not appear to improve.

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Speaking to the ECHO, she said: "It was about four days in and I was getting more worried as usually with things like norovirus or something like that, usually when the tummy empties you feel lousy but it settles. However, it was getting more frequent.

"The diarrhoea was waking him up. Alfred was having to get up in the night which is not common as when you are sick you usually sleep it off."

Gemma said Alfred had been "crying in pain" with the stomach ache and took him to see her GP around day four of the illness. She was told Alfred was likely suffering with a tummy bug or norovirus.

However, her young son appeared to be get even worse, with Gemma saying Alfred's eyes were "sunken" and he was getting "greyer". She said: "Alfred lost around two and half kilos, which is around five pounds, and a lot for a child as Alfred is slim anyway."

Gemma and Daniel with sons Alfred and Henry, right
Gemma and Daniel with sons Alfred and Henry, right -Credit:Gemma Weston

Gemma said Alfred's weight dropped to 16.8kg - the weight of a three-year-old. Eventually after back and forth with the walk-in centre, hospital and GP, the six-year-old was tested for cryptosporidiosis disease.

His results came back positive for the cryptosporidium parasite. Gemma said she wanted to share her family's story to warn other parents of the symptoms. It follows the news that at least 22 cases of cryptosporidiosis disease were confirmed in and around the town of Brixham in South West England.

Cryptosporidium is a tiny organism that causes illness in people and some animals. It is found in human and animal faeces and can contaminate waterways, swimming pools, raw milk and fresh produce, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Anyone can get infected and there is no effective drug treatment for cryptosporidiosis, with the main symptom being prolonged diarrhoea. Gemma said the family were contacted by environmental health to try and locate the source.

Officials told Gemma in Alfred's case it was possibly from livestock as the family had been at a petting zoo and had cycled through fields with farm animals during their break away. They were also told it could have come from infected water.

Alfred Roper tested positive for the cryptosporidium parasite
Alfred Roper tested positive for the cryptosporidium parasite -Credit:Gemma Weston

The mum said: "The main symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting and cramps which are persistent". She added: "We were concerned because none of us got sick and that is what was making us worry."

Gemma said it was after 14 days of consistent symptoms that Alfred was tested for parasites and believes doctors should test at around seven days if symptoms are persistent. The schoolboy is "still not 100%" and Gemma said he is still intolerant to some foods.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms generally begin two to 10 days (average seven days) after becoming infected with the parasite. Symptoms include:

  • Watery diarrhea

  • Stomach cramps or pain

  • Dehydration

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Weight loss

The advice added: "Symptoms usually last about one to two weeks (with a range of a few days to four or more weeks) in people with healthy immune systems. The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis is watery diarrhoea. Some people with Crypto will have no symptoms at all."

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