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South West Water apologizes for parasite outbreak in town of Brixham

  • South West Water apologizes for parasite outbreak in town of Brixham

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The British water utility South West Water (SWW) is set to compensate customers approximately £1.8 million ($2.3 million) after a parasite entered the local water supply, causing dozens of illnesses, reports Bloomberg.

Around 16,000 homes and businesses in England’s Devon county have been advised to boil their water before drinking, according to a government statement.

The utility, part of Pennon Group Plc, announced it will increase rebates in response to the outbreak. Infections from the parasite, cryptosporidium, can occur from drinking contaminated water or swallowing it in pools or streams, leading to prolonged diarrhea. Health officials report that such outbreaks affect between 3,000-6,000 people annually in the UK.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed 22 cases of cryptosporidium in the fishing town of Brixham, with the true number likely higher as more reports of sickness are investigated. “Small traces” of the parasite have been detected in the local water network.

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine and infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia (UEA), warned residents to expect further cases for at least 10 days to two weeks, as the parasite could still be in the incubation period for many individuals.

The contamination is believed to have been caused by cattle manure entering the water supply, possibly through a damaged air valve on a pipe in a field with cattle. Laura Flowerdew, South West Water’s chief customer officer, acknowledged the potential source and the firm's chief executive expressed deep regret over the crisis. Local businesses are predicting significant financial losses due to the outbreak.

The UK government continues to advise affected customers to boil and cool their tap water before use to prevent further infections.

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