VEGA News Item

Unsafe Water Supplies in the Midlands - 01/07/2008
Routine tests last week found contamination of Anglian Water supplies with traces of the cryptosporidia
1. Routine tests last week found contamination of Anglian Water with traces of the cryptosporidia, at Pitsford water treatment works which supplies the Northampton and Daventry areas. An alert has gone out; it is expected to last for several weeks. About 250,000 people in 108,000 homes have been told to boil water for drinking and cooking to avoid the risk of severe diarrhoea, especially in the young and older people. They were also advised to boil water and leave it to cool before cleaning their teeth or giving it to pets.

2. Twenty-one schools in and around Northampton and Daventry have been closed. Staff in residential and care centres have been told to take "extra precautions" and Anglian Water has said that bottled water was being provided for "vulnerable" customers. The Health Protection Agency states that there have been no confirmed human cases of infection, but that as a precaution, it has written to local GPs and hospitals advising vigilance for signs and symptoms of the illness.

3. Cryptosporidiosis is a disease caused by coccidia-like protozoan parasites of several species in many species of animal, especially in the newborn and immunologically compromised, and in the presence of another pathogen such as rotavirus. The incubation period is 4 to 12 days as it typically completes the zoonotic cycle from cattle to water to people. It is a widespread self-limiting disease, damaging and atrophying the villae with consequent malabsorption. It also infects the trachea, cloaca, bursa of Fabricius and conjunctival sacs of birds, the stomach of mice and snakes, the bile duct of monkeys, and immunodeficient foals. Cryptosporidium parvum and C. muris are the commonest of the five identified cryptosporidia in mammals, C. crotali in reptiles, C. melagridis in birds, and C. nasorum in fish.

4. Carers of the young or elderly and keepers of animals of non-human species and travellers abroad or going abroad should observe all the precautions required in the D and V (diarrhoea and/or vomiting) of food poisoning, contacts, and the need to keep patients hydrated (with unexceptional fluids!). Sufferers with HIV need special attention. Many disinfectants are ineffective against cryptosporidium: chlorination of tap water supplies may be impractical and some flocculants may invite new risks, as a disaster a few years ago in Camelford exemplified.

5. Calves one to three weeks old are highly susceptible to cryptosporidiosis, which is one of the severe challenges livestock farming in the dairy / beef / veal sector that these frail animals, prematurely separated from their dams, have to face. Idyllic scenes of cattle cooling off in summery pools and streams hide some unpleasant facts of zoonotic disease. Ramblers with their dogs, heed the warnings and think of their significance in the common welfare of all animals! Flooding is another danger to assess.  

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