The majority of residents on a Devon street have fallen ill with a waterborne infection following a parasite outbreak, a householder has said.

About 16,000 households and businesses in the Brixham area of Devon have been told not to use their tap water for drinking without boiling and cooling it first.

Rita Bristow said she knew of only four houses out of 21 in Raddicombe Close, on the outskirts of Brixham, which have not had at least one person fall ill with cryptosporidiosis.

The illness is caused by a parasite, cryptosporidium, and can cause unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting.

Photograph of Rita Bristow
Rita Bristow said she fell ill with the infection about two weeks ago (Rita Bristow/PA)

Ms Bristow, 65, said she fell ill about two weeks ago, long before South West Water (SWW) publicly warned residents their water network had been affected.

She told the PA news agency: “At first, you think it’s a sickness and diarrhoea bug – you don’t necessarily stop and think that it’s come from the water or where it might have come from, you know, it’s just one of those things.

“I had awful stomach cramps and every time I ate or drank anything, I felt very nauseous, and then two days of explosive diarrhoea – which is the polite way of putting it.”

The grandmother said her husband, two children and grandson had not fallen ill but others on the street had not been so lucky.

Brixham contaminated water
Ms Bristow asked South West Water to deliver water bottles to her home but was told this was only possible for people on a ‘priority list’ (Ben Birchall/PA)

“There’s 21 houses in all and I’m aware of only four houses where nobody has been affected and 11 that definitely have been,” she added.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Friday that 46 cases of cryptosporidiosis had been confirmed in the fishing town and that more cases were anticipated.

Ms Bristow said she had asked SWW to deliver water bottles to the family’s home, as she “didn’t want to go very far from home”, but was told this was only possible for people on a “priority list”.

She added the closest water bottle supply point at that time was “about two, possibly four miles from home”.

The retired administrative officer, like thousands of others, had been urged to boil water and let it cool before drinking it, preparing or cooking food or cleaning their teeth.

The infection can be picked up directly from the faeces of another person or animal, from swimming in or drinking contaminated water, or by eating contaminated food such as unwashed vegetables.