Holiday Claims
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On holiday illness claims benefits

Illness caused by Cryptosporidium Parasites on Holiday

The parasite, cryptosporidium, which causes the human disease "Cryptosporidiosis", contaminates water and food and is one of the leading causes of group actions and holiday illness claims after outbreaks of sickness at hotels abroad.

It is a common waterborne and foodborne infection that occurs when the bug is ingested. The parasite or bug infects the entire bowel, but predominately the lower small intestine, causing severe gastroenteritis to its unsuspecting victim.

The bug is spread through human faeces and cannot be killed by chlorination. It can also be life threatening to holidaymakers with weakened immune systems.

How can I tell if I have been infected by cryptosporidium?

Holiday Hotel Watch

Many holidaymakers could fall ill on holiday in 2014 through cryptosporidium infection when they swallow swimming pool water which has been contaminated by another user following a faecal accident in the pool.

Tour operators have a duty to make sure that the swimming pools you and your family swim in are clean and will not make you ill. The organism is and should be regarded as a major risk in causing diarrhoea amongst children, as they tend to use swimming pools for long periods of time.

This duty also extends to ensuring that reasonable skill and care is taken to avoid food poisoning though hygienic food storage, preparation and service. The parasite can be ingested from drinking food and vegetables which have been washed in contaminated water.

The Federation of Tour Operators publishes a Code of Practice which it recommends tour operators and hotels implement.

The parasite can also be picked up on holiday because:

  • Contaminated food and water
  • Food that an infected food handler has touched
  • Consuming fruit and vegetables that have been washed in water contaminated by cryptosporidium or grown in contaminated soil
  • Eating salads that have been washed in contaminated water
  • Touching an object that an infected person has touched such as toilet handle

Close contact with other holidaymakers or family members who are infected is also a potential cause of person-to-person spread. Those working with people with suppressed immune systems need to be wary because passing the bug may cause them to suffer severe symptoms for several weeks, months or even years afterwards.

What is Cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidium is a parasite that lives in the intestines of animals and humans.

The bug is spread through an infected person or animal excreting parasites which are passed from person to person through watery diarrhoea.

The parasite can survive in environments, including hotel swimming pools, in the form of cysts which open and release tiny parasites when they find their preferred host – typically in the intestines of unsuspecting holidaymakers.

Further information regarding suffering from cryptosporidium on holiday can be found in our facts sheet.

The bug has an incubation period of around 7 days before the symptoms present which last usually for 10 to 15 days. Holidaymakers with intact immune symptoms will typically experience the following symptoms:

Cryptosporidium holiday complaints
  • Profuse watery diarrhoea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Debilitating stomach cramps
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss

A classic trait of cryptosporidium infection is that the bouts of diarrhoea may last several weeks and the symptoms often reappear when a person may initially believe they have recovered.

Although it is quite rare, Ccryptosporidiosis can lead to secondary complications including intolerance to milk (lactose intolerance). Other complications caused by the bug can affect the liver and the pancreas.

What are the causes of cryptosporidium illness on holiday?

Cryptosporidium is inevitably linked to holiday travel, given it is more commonly reported to the Health Protection Agency in the late summer period through the use of infected swimming pools. The parasite can also be picked up on holiday because:

  • Contaminated food and water
  • Food that an infected food handler has touched
  • Consuming fruit and vegetables that have been washed in water contaminated by cryptosporidium or grown in contaminated soil
  • Eating salads that have been washed in contaminated water
  • Touching an object that an infected person has touched such as toilet handle

Close contact with other holidaymakers or family members who are infected is also a potential cause of person-to-person spread.

How to prevent cryptosporidium on holiday

Good personal hygiene practices are the most important means of prevention.

  • Avoid swimming if you are suffering from diarrhoea
  • Always wash hands after handling food or touching animals
  • Wash hands after visiting the toilet and make sure your children do the same

Be aware if there has been a faecal accident in the swimming pool at your hotel and it has not been closed. The pool should be closed off for a minimum of 24 hours to allow sufficient time for the water to be treated and the pool back washed to eradicate any potential cryptosporidium parasites.

Children risk spreading the infection through faecal accidents so parents and guardians should ensure that young children wear appropriate swim wear.

Can I make a claim?

If you have suffered from a cryptosporidium infection whilst on a foreign holiday in the past 3 years and your holiday was a package booked through a UK tour operator you could be entitled to claim substantial compensation.

Simpson Millar's Holiday Illness Lawyers can advise us about making a claim for compensation if your illness was caused by food poisoning or a filthy swimming pool.

Get in touch for a chat about how we can help you by filling in our quick, no obligation enquiry form and we will call you back or you can call us directly on 0808 145 1353.