What is Cryptosporidium?

What is Cryptosporidium?

Cryptosporidium are microscopic parasites which can be found in water. They are responsible for causing an intestinal illness called Cryptosporidiosis.

How does contamination occur?

Mainly, Cryptosporidium is spread from person to person, or animal to person. It has been known to be spread by swimming pool water, if poorly maintained, and occasionally it is spread by food or water. The presence of Cryptosporidium organisms in the water supply is connected with various factors in the environment. These include the presence of farm animals, particularly cattle, close to the water up-stream of a water treatment works' intake point; and highly turbid water (as found after heavy rain, when silts and other organic matter are washed into rivers).  Furthermore, to get from Cryptosporidium in the environment to Cryptosporidium in the supply requires some kind of filter, or other treatment, failure.

What are the health effects?

The most common symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis are watery diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea and headaches.  In a healthy person the symptoms can last up to a month.   As yet there is no effective specific treatment.

What is the legislation?

The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations and the Water Supply (Water Quality) (Scotland) Regulations. These regulations set strict guidelines to the physical properties of drinking water.  They also state that drinking water should not contain certain chemicals or micro-organisms and parasites. It is the employer who is responsible for the quality of the water once it has entered the building.  Therefore, the onus will be on the company to prove that contamination of the water supply by Cryptosporidium occurred before the water entered the building. 

Water companies that do not adequately treat drinking water for Cryptosporidium face unlimited fines now that new regulations have come into force.  Water companies will be expected to carry out risk assessments and to identify the sites which are most at risk.  Where such a risk is found, continuous sampling and daily analysis of water are required, monitored by unannounced visits from the Drinking Water Inspectorate.  It is now an offence to supply water containing more than ten organisms per litre of water.  They occur in ground and surface water and are not killed by conventional water treatment.

What should I do if there is an outbreak of Cryptosporidiosos in my area?

If an outbreak of Cryptosporidiosos occurs in your area, your local water authority will carry out the necessary testing of the mains water supply. They will also carry out treatment to remove the organism from the water supply. Cryptosporidiosos is a notifiable disease.  If someone in your organisation contracts Cryptosporidiosos you and the employee's GP should inform the local Medical Officer for Environmental Health (MOEH) immediately.

This guide is of a general nature; specific advice can be obtained from Assurity Consulting. Assurity Consulting is the UK's leading independent compliance consultancy specialising in workplace health, safety and environmental solutions. We have over 30 years' experience of helping customers of all sizes, from across all sectors, manage their compliance responsibilities, making sure that their organisation is compliant, their employees are safe, their processes are cost effective and their management team is in control.

This guide is of a general nature; specific advice can be obtained from Assurity Consulting by calling tel. 01403 269375 or by email info@assurityconsulting.co.uk

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