Sickness virus in River Otter sparks warning not to swim or paddle in rivers

10:08 17 September 2012

River Otter

River Otter

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People are being warned to stay away from the River Otter at Budleigh Salterton after several school children were taken ill.

District council environmental health chiefs said last Friday that some children playing in the river had become ill with severe vomiting.

As a result they are warning people not to paddle in any East Devon river for the time being.

Tests have shown that they were infected with Norovirus, which is a highly infectious form of gastroenteritis.

Signs advising the public not to bathe or paddle in the river have today (Friday) been put up near the mouth of the River Otter at the Lime Kiln carpark.

It usually takes 24 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear, and these may last for 12 to 60 hours. Typical symptoms are vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.

People affected can also experience high temperatures and tiredness. In healthy individuals the infection is likely to be short lived and can lead to dehydration.

The virus can be spread from person to person, but in this case it is likely that the source was contaminated river water. Two other incidents have been reported which may also have been linked to playing in rivers.

It is believed that people who have been infected may continue to be contagious for up to two weeks even after symptoms have faded. It is not possible to build up immunity to this virus, making it especially important to maintain good personal hygiene, washing your hands often.

A spokesman for East Devon District Council said: “EDDC is working with the Environment Agency in order to find out if there is a specific source of the contamination which might have caused Norovirus in the river water.

“In the meantime they are advising the public not to bathe or paddle in the rivers.

“This has been a particularly difficult summer for maintaining good water quality and the rivers have been flooded several times.

“Flood waters take run-off from fields as well as excess water from the drainage system, and may take some time to clear. “

If you have any queries regarding Norovirus or the safety of river water, please contact EDDC Environmental Health on 01395 517 456.

If you are suffering from symptoms please telephone your doctor in the first instance for advice.

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