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(Publicerat idag kl 17.31)

Possible parasite outbreak in Skellefteå

Updated onsdag 20 april 2011 kl 19.41
Published onsdag 20 april 2011 kl 15.49
"We are preparing for the worst."
(5:12 min)
Residents are advised to boil the water for at least one minute. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix

Several people from the northern city of Skellefteå have been admitted to hospital with stomach aches and diarrhoea, and so far there have been at least seven confirmed cases of the parasite Cryptosporidium.

Local authorities are now advising residents to boil the water before drinking it.

The head of the local government Krisitna Sundin Jonsson said at a press conference that they will continue to teat the situation as a worst case scenario, even though they are still waiting for lab results to confirm that the parasite is spread via the water system.

“We have ordered containers with clean drinking water that will be placed in special areas, we are preparing for the worst,” she said at a press conference.

It will take until tomorrow, Thursday, before the Institute for Infectious Disease Control, will have finished analyzing the samples collected from the local water plant. But considering the number of people who have already reported that they feel ill, it is likely that the water system is the problem, according to Thor Axel Stenström, chief microbiologist.

“There are several different potential sources of cryptosporidium… however, in this case the number of potential cases (means that) the most likely source is the water, and that is why the community is concentrating on that.”

The warning first came after several people had been confirmed as suffering from the parasite. But according to Stefan Stenmark, head of the department for infections disease protection and control in Västerbotten county, the spread of the parasite could have started a few weeks ago.

"People call the healthcare information hot line and they register why people call them. And we see that more people called with problems with stomach ache diarrhoea since the third of April," he told Radio Sweden.

There are a few similarities to what is happening in the northern city of Skellefteå and what happened a few months ago in Östersund, a few hours south east. The most significant is that both cities use surface water instead of ground water. In Skellefteå’s case the water comes from the Skellefteå River.

In Östersund at least 13 000 people were affected by the parasite but that number could be higher according to experts.

So far 2 300 people have filled out the questionnaire at the municipality website and 1,500 – more than half – report that they have had symptoms usually connected with the parasite, stomach pain and diarrhoea.

If the samples taken from the local water plant, Aborren, contain cryptosporidium then the main problem will be to figure out how it got into the water system.

The first tests from the largest water treatment plant in the northern city of Skellefteå have come back showing no signs of the parasite, Cryptosporidium.

But the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control says that it's still likely that the stomach bug is spreading via tap water, since many have gotten sick in a short time.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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