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20 May 2022

Warning: Cryptosporidium outbreak on a local farm

Warning: Cryptosporidium outbreak at a local farm setting

'Washing hands with hot water and soap is the most effective form of hand hygiene'

THERE has been a cryptosporidium outbreak linked to a farm setting in the region in recent weeks, the Department of Public Health Mid-West has revealed.

They are advising members of the public to improve handwashing in and around farm settings - wash your hands with hot water and soap - and to test and treat their well water, in order to reduce the risk of infection of cryptosporidium.

"Cryptosporidium is a parasitic disease mainly found in faeces of animals. Infection mainly occurs through contact with farm animals or their environment or when people drink water contaminated with animal faeces, or touch contaminated objects and then touch their mouths before washing their hands," said a spokesperson.

Alcohol hand sanitiser is not effective against cryptosporidium, they stress, and washing hands with hot water and soap is the most effective form of hand hygiene.

"Because it is the start of petting zoo season, there is an increased risk of exposure to cryptosporidium, especially among children. This is why effective hand washing is crucial.

"Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach pains, and headaches. It may cause outbreaks of gastroenteritis, and can have long-lasting effects on those with weak immune systems," said the spokesperson.

The Mid-West has also one of the highest rates of Cryptosporidium in Ireland. There were 121 cryptosporidium cases recorded in the Mid-West region in 2021, almost three times the number recorded in 2020 (46 cases), and the highest over the past 10 years. Incidence of cryptosporidium peaks in the spring, corresponding with the calving and lambing season.

The Department of Public Health Mid-West and HSE Environmental Health Service Mid-West recently launched an awareness campaign to highlight the need for testing and treating private well water, in order to reduce the risk of serious illness linked to drinking contaminated and unsafe water.

"It is important for private well owners to test well water every year and have appropriate protection or/and treatment systems in place. Well owners can avail of grants from their local authorities for treatment, rehabilitation, and the new construction of private wells," said the spokesperson.

Here are links to local authority grant schemes for private wells in the Mid-West:

Limerick City and County Council: https://www.limerick.ie/ council/services/water-and- drainage/rural-water-programme

Clare County Council: https://www.clarecoco.ie/ services/water-and-wastewater/ rural-water-services/

Tipperary County Council website: https://www.tipperarycoco.ie/

The location of the outbreak has not been disclosed by the Department of Public Health Mid-West.

The Limerick Leader asked for details of where the outbreak occurred but they declined, saying: "The Department of Public Health Mid-West does not comment or elaborate on individual cases or outbreaks that may breach our duty of confidentiality and trust to both the individuals and organisations concerned.

"Maintaining this confidentiality is not only an ethical requirement for the HSE, it is also a legal requirement under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Acts 1988-2018."  

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