Potential health risks from bugs in water

Bugs in water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses and, in severe cases, death. Symptoms could include diarrhoea, vomiting and/or fever. 

Babies, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people who have weakened immune systems are more at risk of illness.

If you are concerned about your health or the health of a family member, contact your doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116).

If you drink contaminated water and become unwell, the most important thing to do is to avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids (including bottled or boiled water) and avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coca cola or energy drinks, coffee, and tea.

E. coli and drinking water

E. coli is a type of bacteria found in the intestines and faeces (poo) of people, other mammals and birds. In technical terms it’s a subgroup of the coliform group. 

If E. coli is found in a drinking water sample, this indicates recent faecal contamination (i.e. the presence of poo). That means it can be expected that micro-organisms including bacteria, viruses and protozoa that can cause illness, will be in the water. 

Boiling contaminated drinking water destroys all illness-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa that may be present.

Find out how to make contaminated water safe to drink

What to do if you think your drinking water is contaminated

If you experience diarrhoea, vomiting and/or fever and think your sickness has been caused by your drinking water, contact your doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116) and your drinking water supplier as soon as possible.