Grandmother, 80, is rushed to hospital with severe dehydration after drinking Devon's dirty water - as 'doctors say she could take a month to recover' from debilitating symptoms that left her unable to talk or eat

An 80-year-old grandmother was rushed to hospital with severe dehydration after drinking water suspected to contain cryptosporidium bacteria.

Elaine Hollier, 80, from Brixham, Devon, was taken away by paramedics on Saturday 11 May after suffering severe dehydration and vomiting for two weeks.

Medics were initially stumped by her condition - until South West Water (SWW) confirmed an outbreak of the parasite had been found in an underground reservoir serving their home and around 40,000 others.

Her husband of 60 years, Dennis Hollier, initially thought they had fallen ill after eating undercooked sausage. But she is now one of hundreds of people suspected to have fallen ill after ingesting the parasite via contaminated water.

The scandal has prompted calls for bosses at SWW to quit - while the local MP says the outbreak has 'undermined trust' in Britain's water network.

Mr Hollier says he was left worried sick after being told to stay away from hospital while doctors tried to figure out why she was so ill.

Elaine Hollier (pictured with husband Dennis) has been hospitalised after drinking water contaminated with cryptosporidium bacteria

Elaine Hollier (pictured with husband Dennis) has been hospitalised after drinking water contaminated with cryptosporidium bacteria

Mr Hollier was told to stay away from hospital while medics puzzled over condition - only realising she had ingested the bacteria after South West Water issued a 'boil water' alert

Mr Hollier was told to stay away from hospital while medics puzzled over condition - only realising she had ingested the bacteria after South West Water issued a 'boil water' alert

Hillhead Reservoir, the underground reservoir where the outbreak of bacteria is thought to have originated

Hillhead Reservoir, the underground reservoir where the outbreak of bacteria is thought to have originated

Locals in south Devon are being told to boil the water before using it for cooking or drinking

Locals in south Devon are being told to boil the water before using it for cooking or drinking

Locals in Brixham, Boohay, Kingswear, Roseland and north-east Paignton in Devon were all told to boil water as a precaution

Locals in Brixham, Boohay, Kingswear, Roseland and north-east Paignton in Devon were all told to boil water as a precaution

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Mr Hollier said of his wife's condition: 'She was absolutely diabolical. For four days I was trying to help her but I got so worried I phoned 111.

'The hospital didn't know how to treat her because they didn't know what was infecting her.

'She had severe stomach pains and could hardly talk because she was so dehydrated.

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'As soon as they confirmed there was a bug in the water the doctors said, "we know how to treat you now".

'I have been worried sick, I was even told to stay away from the hospital because they didn't know what it was.'

Mr Hollier claims he was told by South West Water that the water was safe to drink after he called to them say his wife was ill.

'I phoned up South West Water to tell them what happened but they said you can carry on drinking the water,' he added.

'I know 10 people at least who have come down with it.

It has been so upsetting to see my wife in a hospital bed with tubes sticking out of her arms for antibiotics.

'She's got no appetite and no energy. I was dead worried for myself too because they didn't have a clue.'

Mr Hollier says he also suffered symptoms but had a 'lucky escape' because he drinks less water than his wife.

He saw workmen at the Hillhead Reservoir pumping station a week ago and at the time thought nothing of it but now suspects the work may have been linked to the outbreak.

He added: 'It's a disgrace, doctors say she could take a month to recover. She is going to write to South West Water to say: "you put me in hospital".

'I think whoever is responsible needs sacking and the water company needs to explain what they knew and when because I don't think we have been told the whole truth.'

South West Water unloading crates of bottled water to distribute to locals in south Devon

South West Water unloading crates of bottled water to distribute to locals in south Devon

South West Water handing out emergency rations of bottled water to those affected by the Cryptosporidium outbreak

South West Water handing out emergency rations of bottled water to those affected by the Cryptosporidium outbreak

Long queues can be seen formed on a road in Devon as people queue up for bottled water

Long queues can be seen formed on a road in Devon as people queue up for bottled water

Locals in Brixham, Boohay, Kingswear, Roseland and north-east Paignton in Devon were all told to boil water as a precaution - including for drinking or using it to cook with and brush teeth - after SWW issued an alert yesterday.

Bottled water stations were set up to hand out supplies in the local area - with huge queues of cars visible from the skies.

At Broadsands car park in Paignton, residents fumed at the unfolding disaster - which South West Water initially claimed was not related to its network.

One resident said: 'I am furious this had happened. Water rates are incredibly expensive and now we are told we can't even drink it.

'I think the bosses who take such huge salaries should come down here and explain to us how things have gone so wrong.'

The Conservative MP for Totnes, Anthony Mangnall, claims 'animal waste' may have contaminated the Hillhead Reservoir that serves Brixham - and locals say the problem has been apparent for weeks, long before SWW acknowledged it yesterday.

Mr Mangnall has described SWW's initial failure to acknowledge a problem with the supply as 'enormously frustrating'.

He said earlier today: 'I am very concerned about SWW's response to this situation, as they have been slow to act and communication with customers has been very poor.

'This has certainly undermined trust in our water network, and I will certainly keep working with colleagues at DEFRA to ensure SWW are held to account over this issue.'

The water board, meanwhile, has agreed to credit affected customers with £100 compensation on top of a previous £15 payment.

But shelves in local supermarkets have been stripped bare of bottled water while one school in Brixham did not open today because, it claimed, SWW had not supplied it with bottled water for the day.

Cryptosporidium can be found in the intestines and faeces of infected humans and animals. The parasite can be ingested by swimming in or drinking contaminated water as well as other sources such as contaminated food.

It can lead to the disease cryptosporidiosis, which causes fever, a loss of appetite, diarrhoea and vomiting. The NHS says most people recover within a month, if not less.

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