Woman instructs lawyers after falling ill in Devon with parasitic disease

Woman instructs lawyers after falling ill in Devon with parasitic disease <i>(Image: Getty Images)</i>
Woman instructs lawyers after falling ill in Devon with parasitic disease (Image: Getty Images)

A STOURBRIDGE woman who fell ill in Devon where there’s been an outbreak of a waterborne parasitic disease has instructed lawyers to investigate.

The 58-year-old woman developed sickness and diarrhoea after drinking tap water following a five-day stay with her husband and two friends at a caravan park in Brixham, Devon.

On returning home, she was struck down with severe gastric symptoms, including stomach cramps, diarrhoea and fainting, and following tests she was diagnosed with cryptosporidium on May 17.

Following her diagnosis, the woman instructed specialist public health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her illness.

Jatinder Paul, head of the specialist public health team at the law firm, said: “The first-hand account we’ve heard from our client concerning her illness is deeply disturbing and reflects many other reports coming out of Devon of people who have fell ill after drinking tap water.

“Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite which can cause gastrointestinal illness in both humans and animals. It can have devasting consequences for the most vulnerable in society such as the elderly and children.

“Cryptosporidium is found in contaminated water sources, such as lakes and rivers, and can also be transmitted through contact with infected individuals or animals. It typically leads to symptoms such as diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

“Our client’s story is likely to be typical and as the UK Health Security Agency is reportedly investigating more than 70 cases, this could be the tip of the iceberg. It also shows that it’s not just local people who could be affected, but also visitors to Devon.

“Whilst we welcome that South West Water has now reduced the number of households required to boil drinking water, this remains a serious outbreak. It’s vital that lessons are learned going forward and that people caught up in this receive the support they deserve.”

The woman had travelled to Devon on May 2 for a five-day holiday to celebrate her husband’s birthday but as they prepared to return home on May 7 she began to feel unwell, with shaking and aching. The next day she was seriously ill with stomach cramps and diarrhoea and became so poorly she passed out and her husband had to lay her on the bathroom floor.

On consulting her GP she underwent tests which confirmed she had contracted cryptosporidium.

The woman, who does not wish to be named, said: “We’d all had a wonderful break but those memories have been ruined by my illness. I’ve never felt so ill.

“I drink a lot of water but luckily for our friends and my husband, they didn’t drink the tap water directly, only boiling water for tea and coffee, which probably saved them a similar experience.

“I still don’t feel well now and since this started I’ve lost over a stone in weight. It’s horrible to think so many other people have been affected. I feel so sorry for the people who live in the area.

“This has clearly been a very serious event. I just hope now that I and the many others caught up in can get answers and importantly that lessons are learned to reduce the risk of this happening again.”

While the boil water notice for residents in Devon has now been mostly lifted, 2,500 households remain impacted across the Hillhead supply area.

South West Water said it was working “around the clock” to try to resolve the situation, with a spokesperson saying: “Our operations teams are working tirelessly to eliminate any traces of cryptosporidium, and we are continuing to flush and clean the system.

“We will not lift the boil water notice for those affected until we and our public health partners are absolutely satisfied it is safe to do so.

"Separately, investigations into the damaged air valve installation on private land, which we believe to be the cause, are ongoing.”