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Cryptosporidium outbreak in Devon

Around 16,000 households and business in the Brixham area have been issued with ’boil water notices’ after cryptosporidium was found in the local water supply network. Notices were issued by South West Water.

Posted on 17 May 2024

Cryptosporidium is a parasite usually found in the intestines of infected animals and people, and can be passed on by contact with faeces or contamination of the food or water supply.

Cryptosporidium causes a viral illness with typical symptoms including diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, fever and loss of appetite. Symptoms will typically resolve on their own within a month or so, however in clinically vulnerable individuals it can lead to longer periods of illness and even much more serious secondary conditions such as neurological disorders or diseases of the internal organs. 

Specialist solicitors at Leigh Day, who have successfully acted in claims relating to disease outbreaks caused by contaminated food, understand that dozens of cases have been reported to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), with more than 20 having been formally diagnosed with cryptosporidiosis. It is expected that more cases will be confirmed as further testing is carried out.

South West Water, along with other privately owned water companies in the UK, have been the subject of much media reporting in recent times due to a litany of complaints about the discharge of sewage into natural waterways, executive pay, and consumer value for money. 

The situation is clearly an evolving one with investigations ongoing, however the apparent scale of the outbreak already is a cause for serious concern. 

Michelle Victor, head of the food safety team, said:

“This is an extremely concerning outbreak and local residents will understandably be asking how this could have happened and whether more could have been done to prevent it.

“For the last couple of years or so there has been an increasingly urgent national conversation about the state of our water industry, and incidents like this show how absolutely vital it is that public utilities are safe, monitored and regulated.

“I understand that local residents were told by South West Water that they would be given £15 in compensation for the inconvenience caused, a figure which has since been increased by £100. If this is the extent of the recompense made to the local community my view is that this is derisory. Anyone who has fallen ill may be entitled to compensation well in excess of this depending on the extent of their symptoms.”

Anyone who believes they may have been infected with cryptosporidium can contact the Leigh Day Food Safety Team on 0203 780 0432 for preliminary advice and guidance. 

Michelle Victor
Environment Food safety Inquests Medical devices Personal injury Product safety

Michelle Victor

Michelle is a leading consumer rights lawyer and head of the food safety team in London

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