Thousands told to boil water after sickness outbreak

Thousands of families were yesterday told to boil their water before using it after a warning that they risk sickness and severe diarrhoea.

The advice was issued by public health officials after 32 people became unwell due to a water-borne micro-organism, cryptosporidium, which causes serious and prolonged stomach upset.

Three Valleys Water, which serves Hertfordshire and north-west London, broadcast warnings to 300,000 families after samples of water were found to be carrying the germ.

Christine Murphy, of the Public Health Service Laboratory, said: "The number of people affected by this latest outbreak is fluctuating.

"We are advising worried families to boil their water for the next three days.

"We always expect to see between 4,000 to 5,000 cases each year but each outbreak is taken seriously."

Cryptosporidium causes diarrhoea which can last up to three weeks and is potentially fatal for children or people with deficient immune systems.

The organism, which belongs to a group of protozoa and occurs naturally in farm animals, can be washed into the water supply from nearby agricultural land. It is usually spread through contaminated water or contact with an infected person, but unpasteurised milk and offal also carry risks.

A spokesman for Three Valleys Water said: "We are advising customers to boil their water as a precautionary measure and there will be a full investigation into this outbreak.

"Although there is no specific treatment for the illness, we are also advising sufferers to drink plenty of fluids to cleanse their system."

According to environmental specialists this latest outbreak is unusual because the water is from a ground source supply.

Philip Lightowlers, of the Environmental Data Service Journal, said: "We usually see crypto in surface water supplies which have the most rigorous treatment checks.

"There is a possibility that this ground water, which is naturally filtered through rocks, didn't undergo the same stringent tests, but we will have to wait for the investigation to see whether this is the case."

A spokesman for West Hertfordshire Health Authority said the outbreak had not reached epidemic levels. "But we are seeing about three times as many cases as we would normally expect this time of year.

"At the moment, no one is seriously ill or in hospital to our knowledge, but we are monitoring their progress closely."

In 1989 an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in Humberside prompted a Department of the Environment recommendation for water companies to keep a close watch on heavy rainfalls and dumping. The report also suggested the privatised utilities should monitor water treatment regularly.

Despite increased water observation, there have been five serious outbreaks since 1992.

Catherine Comben, of the Drinking Water Inspectorate, said: "We will be carrying out a full investigation into this incident to see if the company could have done anything to prevent this latest outbreak."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory