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Water Crisis Wreaks Havoc on Irish City

Who said water contamination is unique to the developing world? Look at Galway, the third largest city in Ireland//.

It is now reeling under a major water crisis. Scores of people have taken ill and tens of thousands are feared to be at risk from contaminated water.

Water supply in Galway has been hit by an outbreak of a parasite called cryptosporidium, with up to 170 people now confirmed to have been hit by a serious stomach bug as a result.

Stomach bug or stomach flu is a popular name for viral gastroenteritis, an infection of the intestines caused by a virus.

In the instant case the disease has been triggered by cryptosporidium, a parasite commonly found in lakes and rivers, especially when the water is contaminated with sewage and animal wastes.

Cryptosporidium is very resistant to disinfection, and even a well-operated water treatment system cannot ensure that drinking water will be completely free of this parasite, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has noted.

Cryptosporidium has caused several large waterborne disease outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness, with symptoms that include diarrhea, nausea, and/or stomach cramps. People with severely weakened immune systems are likely to have more severe and more persistent symptoms than healthy individuals.

Moreover, Cryptosporidium has been a contributing cause of death in some immunocompromised people, like those infected with HIV/AIDS, cancer and transplant patients taking immunosuppressive drugs or people born with a weakened immune system.

The stomach flu outbreak has severely affected homes and businesses in Galway and residents have been warned that the crisis could last for months.

Tests found that the city's water supply contained nearly 60 times the safe limit of cryptosporidium pollution.

Residents have already been unable to drink or use water for food preparation for weeks and have complained that no free clean water has been made available by the authorities.

Parents with young families have also expressed real concerns and demanded action. "It's not right, we shouldn't have to pay for our water when the local supply is polluted," said Galway resident Sarah Doran.

"I'm spending up to three euros a day on bottled water. If this goes on for nine months, as we've been told it could, that's going to add up. "People just won't be able to afford it."

Business leaders have also expressed worries over the impact the crisis will have on what is traditionally the beginning of the tourist season in the west of Ireland.

One hotelier said it was costing him up to 2,000 euros a week to provide bottled water for his guests, and he was now being forced to install his own filtration system.

However, a local expert warned that filtration was not the answer.

"The newest water treatment plant we have is 40 years old," he said. “People have been warning for years about this. Filtration is not the answer. We need to go to the source of the contamination to solve it," he added.

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