Homes in Lancashire were forced to boil their water after a parasite was found in the supply.

More than 300,000 households have been affected after routine tests by United Utilities found traces of cryptosporidium at Franklaw water treatment works outside Preston.

Some customers said they were not told quickly enough and suffered from stomach cramps, diarrhea and sickness as a result.

The alert affects Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Preston, South Ribble and Wyre.

Shelves were empty in local supermarkets and shops, which had run out of bottle water after hundreds of panicked customers stocked up on supplies.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite which lives in, or on, other organisms.

It is found in soil, water or food contaminated with animal or human faeces. Infection occurs via contact with infected animals in farms or zoos or by drinking contaminated water.

It is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea in humans and is known to cause diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.

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