About 170 people – mostly children – have been taken ill with vomiting and diarrhoea after a junior football tournament was held in Devon.
Public Health England and local environmental health officers have launched an investigation into the incident, which has seen five cases of the parasitic infection Cryptosporidium confirmed so far and at least two people have been hospitalised.
The infection can be life-threatening to people with poor immune systems.
Parents from the Midlands, Wales and Bristol are claiming that all of those who became ill swam in a pool at the Devon Valley Holiday Village in Shaldon on the River Teign.
But the family owners of the holiday park say that tests on the water have all come back clear, and Environmental Health officers have given them the go-ahead to keep their indoor pool open.
R&T Football Tours organised the Devon Classic junior event, bringing teams from the Midlands, Wales and Bristol over the May Day bank holiday weekend with teams staying at different holiday parks and hotels around South Devon, playing matches at the Newton Abbot Devon Football Association headquarters in Coach Road, Newton Abbot.
Public Health England and Teignbridge Council’s Environmental Health Office have both confirmed they are investigating and have taken samples from the pool at Devon Valley.
The owner of the holiday park, Gail Massey, told DevonLive that they are working with Public Health England, and so far all tests run by the Environmental Health officers were clear.
She added: “This is a family business and we have never had an incident prior to this and not had a single complaint since since.
“The investigation is ongoing to find the source. They went to a lot of different places including Decoy Lake over that weekend and it is up to Public Health to establish the cause.
“We are working with them and doing everything we can to help. I want the facts to come out. It is frustrating that they are blaming us on Facebook and TripAdvisor and we would like to be cleared as soon as possible.”
One dad, Mark Reynolds, said 23 people have fallen ill from their Withymoor Colts party, who come from near Stourbridge in the West Midlands.
Two children and one adult have now had Cryptosporidium confirmed from their party.
Matt said that 170 of the visiting children and some parents have become ill with vomiting and diarrhoea and he knows of five confirmed cases of Cryptosporidium so far. Two people he knows were hospitalised – one girl and one boy.
“The problem is that most people were not tested because at first we thought they had picked up a bug.”
Cryptosporidium are parasites that travel to the small intestine and burrow into the walls of the intestines. In people with poor immune systems it can be life threatening.
The swimming pool at the holiday park remains open after inspections, but the Teignbridge Enivornmental Health inspectors have taken samples and are awaiting results.
Matt says: “We have set up a WhatsApp group and there are 170 altogether who are ill.”
His two children Imogen, 11, and Lewis, nine, are among the people who have been ill.
He said: “Last Friday, May 10 – my lad was sick having to come home from school. Later on my daughter was sick. We put this down to a tummy bug and thought nothing of it.
“By chance we spoke to other parents in the team – it turns out that 20 children and three adults were all unwell from our team with the same symptoms – upset stomachs, vomiting and fatigue.
“We then realised that the ill part of the party were the ones who visited the pool, the guys who were well were actually sitting out by the caravans. It is also worth noting that the only two children who are still well both did not swim.
“I then turned detective and managed to find other teams from the tournament through social media – many had the same illness and had been in the pool only, to date we estimate 170 people have become sick.
“The only two children from our party who are not sick did not swim in the pool and the only adults who are ill are the ones who went in to supervise them.”
One of the dads who has tested positive for Cryptosporidium is Andy Morgan.
He said: “I have had it confirmed this afternoon that I have tested positive for Cryptosporidium.
“From my family, both myself and my two children (aged six and nine) went in the pool and my wife didn’t.
“My children, although they have not been tested, both suffered from sickness and diarrhoea.
“My sickness symptoms started last Sunday and only finished on Wednesday evening. However I have been off work all week because of risk of infection. I think that currently I am the third in our party to have tested positive for Cryptosporidium.”
What is Cryptosporidium
Cryptosporidium infection (cryptosporidiosis) is an illness caused by tiny, one-celled cryptosporidium parasites, according to the non-profitmaking Mayo Clinic.
When cryptosporidia (krip-toe-spoe-RID-e-uh) enter your body, they travel to your small intestine and then burrow into the walls of your intestines. Later, cryptosporidia are shed in your feces.
In most healthy people, a cryptosporidium infection produces a bout of watery diarrhea and the infection usually goes away within a week or two.
If you have a compromised immune system, a cryptosporidium infection can become life-threatening without proper treatment.
You can help prevent a cryptosporidium infection by practicing good hygiene and avoiding swallowing water from pools, recreational water parks, lakes and streams.
The first signs and symptoms of cryptosporidium infection usually appear within a week after infection and may include:
- Watery diarrhea
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Stomach cramps or pain
Symptoms may last for up to two weeks, though they may come and go sporadically for up to a month, even in people with healthy immune systems. Some people with cryptosporidium infection may have no symptoms.
When to see a doctor
Seek medical attention if you develop watery diarrhea that does not get better within a few days the Mayo Clinic advises.