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Tap water could spread stomach bug

14/09/05 – Health news section
A common stomach bug that strikes more than 42,000 people a year could be spread in tap water, experts warned.
Campylobacter, the commonest reported bacterial cause of infectious intestinal disease in England and Wales, causes severe diarrhoea, stomach pain and vomiting.
The bug is linked to undercooked meat, especially chicken, unpasteurised milk and untreated water and can also be spread by pets.


In 2004 there were more than 42,000 cases reported in England and Wales, but many more people could have caught the bug and recovered without visiting a doctor.
The Health Protection Agency’s annual conference at the University of Warwick was told it was possible that tap water could be partly linked to the growing numbers of cases.
In a presentation at the conference Liz Stokle, a senior nurse at the HPA, said: “Little information exists about the fate of campylobacter following chlorination.
“It is assumed that following conventional treatment the organism will have been destroyed and will not enter supply in a viable state.
“As water companies do not routinely look for the organism and as E.coli is not an efficient indicator for the presence of campylobacter this pathogen could potentially ‘slip through the net’ in terms of detection.”
Ms Stokle said there had been much scientific debate about the possible sources of campylobacter but the sporadic nature of cases could indicate that the bacteria may be linked to the domestic water supply.
Water companies are not required to test for campylobacter, although they do test for other bugs like E.coli that could indicate that campylobacter is also present.