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Monday, 22 May, 2000, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Health warning on bug
Dr Philip Donaghy from the Eastern Health Board
Dr Philip Donaghy: Children and elderly most at risk
Health officials are trying to trace the source of an outbreak of illnesses caused by the bug cryptosporidium in Northern Ireland.

The Eastern Health Board has said the outbreak seems to be "almost completely" confined to their area.

They are looking for a common source of 85 recorded cases, mostly in the County Antrim and County Down towns of Lisburn and Bangor.

Dr Philip Donaghy from the Eastern Health Board said that to most people the bug "causes a few days illness".

However, in young children, the elderly or the immuno-suppressed, it can be extremely dangerous.

Mr Donaghy said: "It is a small organism which people swallow and in the gut it affects the cells causing diarrhoea, abdominal pains, a feeling of illness and sometimes vomiting."

'Hygiene and water precautions'

The bug can often be waterborne, but the Water Service has said intensive tests they have carried out have found nothing abnormal.

Mr Donaghy added that people throughout Northern Ireland should take precautions against the bug.

"It can be a mild to moderate illness.

"It affects children more than adults and in the last few weeks we have had a number of children admitted to hospital for a few days, but all have been discharged without untoward effects.

"It is rarely fatal, although people who already have immuno-compromised illness would need to be very careful, but there are already instructions out that they should always boil water and cool it down and we would like to again emphasise this.

"The outbreak at the moment is almost exclusively confined to the Eastern Health and Social Services Board area, but I should point out that the disease is found throughout Northern Ireland and occasionally does crop up.

"So caution should be applied when handling animals or going to zoos, or farms. People should pay attention to personal hygiene, washing their hands and make sure children don't suck their fingers," he said.

"If anyone gets the disease, if they have persistent diarrhoea, they should visit their doctor.

"The general advice we would give people is to maintain good personal hygiene. This is very important to stop the spread of the disease," he added.

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See also:

03 Nov 98 | Health
Clampdown on water bugs
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