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Understanding Cryptosporidium: The Parasite Responsible for Diarrhea Found in Devon Drinking Water

Cryptosporidiosis is an illness triggered by the parasite cryptosporidium. Commonly referred to as crypto, this infection can occur through various means, including consuming contaminated water or coming into contact with infected animal or human feces.

Situation in Brixham

In Brixham, cases of cryptosporidiosis have surged, with 46 reported cases and over 100 individuals experiencing similar symptoms. Investigations by South West Water suggest that the parasite likely infiltrated the water supply through animal feces. Initially, residents were assured that tap water was safe, but subsequent testing revealed traces of the parasite in the Hillhead reservoir, prompting advisories to boil drinking water. South West Water has apologized for the inconvenience and increased compensation for affected individuals.


Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis typically include profuse watery diarrhea, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, low-grade fever, and loss of appetite. Onset of symptoms usually occurs within one to 12 days, lasting up to six weeks or longer, particularly in individuals with compromised immune systems.


While most people recover, severe cases can occur, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems. Historically, cryptosporidiosis posed greater risks, particularly before the advent of effective treatments for conditions like HIV/AIDS.

Risk Groups

Those most vulnerable to severe illness include individuals on immunosuppressive drugs, untreated HIV/AIDS patients, and malnourished children.


There’s no specific treatment for cryptosporidiosis. Management focuses on staying hydrated to prevent dehydration, with oral rehydration sachets aiding in replenishing lost nutrients. Severe cases may require hospitalization, especially if symptoms persist or worsen.


Diagnosis relies on laboratory testing of fecal samples by healthcare providers.


To prevent transmission, individuals should stay home from school or work until symptoms subside and avoid swimming for at least two weeks post-illness. Refrain from preparing food for others until 48 hours after symptoms cease. Practice thorough handwashing and launder bedding and towels on high-temperature cycles to prevent further spread of the parasite.

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