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Friday, July 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: Floody hell.

The Sun really does seem to be a roll at the minute when it comes to trying to scare those already flooded into even further bouts of ennui, depression and anxiety. Yesterday, in the calm, measured manner for which the newspaper is renowned, it splashed on its own investigation, headlined "THE TOXIC TIDE". For anyone doubting just what sort of toxicity the newspaper was talking about, it helpfully illustrated the problem with the stock poison warning label, the skull and crossbones. Not wanting to be possibly outdone, it listed just about every possible disease that might be lurking in the filthy water:

Experts confirmed that water samples collected by The Sun on the outskirts of Gloucester bore traces of animal and human faeces.

Analysis revealed disturbing levels of bacteria and viruses, including salmonella, hospital superbug C.Diff and cryptosporidium.

Dysentery, gastroenteritis, gastritis and meningitis could all be contracted by the rapid spread of infection, causing crippling stomach pains, diarrhoea, and possible long-term effects in children.

And if that wasn't enough:

One of the biggest fears was that there could be an outbreak of deadly cholera.

Is bacteria (sic) thrives in warm, dirty water and the disease spreads between people who consume contaminated food or water.

The disease — most dangerous for young children — ravages the gut, causing chronic diarrhoea.

That can lead to severe dehydration, rapid kidney failure and death.

Or if that doesn't get you, E.coli will:

The E.coli 157 bug can also be lethal. It surfaced in Britain in the 1980s and is passed on by eating infected food or drinking contaminated liquid. It kills by damaging the kidneys.

Dysentery is also caused by a form of bacteria, spreading rapidly through food, infected water and physical contact with victims.

It leads to chronic stomach cramps, then diarrhoea and possibly kidney failure.

Strangely, nowhere in the entire article is the obvious pointed out: unless you for some reason feel like drinking the water, the chances of catching anything are slight. Thankfully, we have the BBC, which last week the Sun said needed to have the stables cleaned out and the jobsworths sacked in order for trust to be restored, to bring some clarity to the issue:

Professor Kevin G Kerr, consultant Microbiologist at Harrogate District Hospital said: "Some areas of the world experience serious outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid after major flooding.

"But large-scale outbreaks of infection would be very unlikely in the UK, partly because these diseases are very rare in this country but mainly because water companies are able to provide clean drinking water - either bottled or from bowsers - to people without tap water."

Dr Ken Flint, a microbiologist at the University of Warwick, said: "As long as people don't drink the flood water they won't get a water borne disease."

And environmental microbiologist Dr Keith Jones, from Lancaster University, said: "Despite the dire warnings about outbreaks of disease following flooding, they rarely happen.

"Although there is the potential for an increase in enteric disease after flooding, if you follow the advice given by the Environment Agency and the Environmental Health Officers, you should be safe."

Indeed, no disease outbreaks were reported in the flooded areas of the US affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

And there is no evidence from previous UK floods, such as Carlisle and Lewes, that bugs in the water caused an increase in gastro-intestinal illness and enhanced surveillance by the Health Protection Agency has not detected increased reports of infection in areas that are currently affect flooding either.

Not content with just over-hyping the deadliness of the flood water, today's Scum instead decided to err, over-hype the deadliness of the water contained in the bowsers, while having a good old bash at those favoured bogeymen, the one-dimensional, omnipresent yet invisible yobs:

FURIOUS flood victims last night slammed yobs who ruined their emergency water supply.

Gangs of youngsters urinated in a desperately-needed water bowser and tipped bleach into another.

They also emptied one of the mobile tankers of its precious water within 15 minutes of its arrival in Cheltenham, Gloucs — then stood by laughing.

All splashed on the front page, with the headline "POND LIFE" just to hammer home the disgraceful behaviour of these feral youngsters. Oddly, especially for an exclusive that led the paper, the story was nowhere to be seen on the news page by tonight. (I had to search for it.) Could that possibly be related to the BBC yet again having to clarify the Sun's voluminous apoplexy?

Gloucestershire police have said they have received about ten reports of criminal damage to bowsers and one unconfirmed report of urine in one of the containers.

One would presume that the unconfirmed report came from err, the Sun. In any case, "Guinnessman" in the comments on the article has the solution:

Why can't the powers-that-be have the nerve to declare martial law in the worst affected places. That way, these little scum-bags could be shot.

Out of 3 pages of why-oh-whying, calls for parents to give their youngsters a good beating to sort them out and diatribes about chav scum, it's left to the usual one person there often is on these threads to insert just a tiny amount of sanity:

Come on - where's your sense of humour? Kids will always be kids! Can't you see the funny side of peeing in the water? Have you forgotten what its like to be young?

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I suspect the lone poster who thinks it's funny has had no trouble getting clean water for the past week.

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