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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Coordinator

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Production Coordinator is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opening has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn