UK weather: Contaminated floodwaters could lead to norovirus spike

 

A A A

Public health chiefs are braced for a surge in cases of diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pain caused by bugs in floodwater as sewage spills out of overflowing drains.

One expert predicted “a big spike in diarrhoea” in the coming days but said the outbreak of illness would be “unpleasant but not deadly”.

Floodwater could contain E.coli, salmonella and campylobacter bacteria as animal waste becomes mixed with storm waters, while human sewage could spread the winter vomiting bug norovirus.

People in areas with flooding are being warned to wash their hands regularly, particularly before eating, and to dress open wounds. Once the waters have receded, they have been urged to ensure their homes are thoroughly dried out as bacteria thrives in damp conditions. Tonight Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, attended a meeting of the Whitehall emergency committee Cobra amid warnings that the flooding could spread gastro-intestinal disease.

Dr Ben Neuman, microbiologist from the University of Reading, said he last week tested water around a flooded house in the Somerset Levels. The water was carrying much higher levels of bacteria than normal, Dr Neuman said, describing it as the equivalent of dissolving a couple of teaspoons of horse manure in an office water cooler.

“I think there will be a big spike in diarrhoea, but people may not up end up reporting it to the public health authorities,” he told The Independent. “It will be unpleasant, but not deadly. The water is dirty rather than dangerous.”

Dr Peter Fox, an environmental health consultant, said: “When you get raw sewage flowing into the water, there are a lot of pathogens present arising from people in the community who are infected. At any one time, two or three per cent of the population have got some kind of diarrhoea or gastric infection.”

Water expert Professor Robert Jackson, said: “A variety of micro-organisms is present in wastewater and can give rise to significant microbial contamination and illness. Potential hazards exist from viruses and microbial pathogens including escherichia coli, which are present in the faeces of most humans, mammals and birds.”

Public Health England (PHE) said it was monitoring reports from hospitals and family doctors for any indications of an outbreak of infectious disease. Virginia Murray, head of extreme events and health protection, said that while the experience of summer 2007, in which 55,000 properties were flooded, did not suggest a serious outbreak, authorities nationally and locally needed to remain vigilant.

“Floodwater can be coming from all over the place,” she said. “You wouldn’t ever drink or swim in contaminated water. There are likely to be all sorts of bacteria and pathogens in floodwater and the best advice is not to come into contact with it, if at all possible.

“We are carrying out surveillance at GPs and A&E departments and we’re targeting that, as much as we can, to the local areas where people have seen flooding.”

Safety leaflets have been issued to homes in Surrey, which has seen some of the worst floods.

Experts have also advised people not to use petrol or diesel generators indoors in the event of a power cut due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

A seven-year-old boy died in flood-hit Chertsey on Saturday and there were reports officers are investigating whether carbon monoxide fumes from a pump being used to clear water from the house were responsible.

Surrey Police said the cause of the death remained unknown and tests were continuing.

Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing