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Outbreaks of Cryptosporidium, a swimming-related illness that causes diarrhea, are on the rise according to a new report.
, a swimming-related illness that causes diarrhea, are on the rise, according to a new report.
From 2009 to 2017, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
reported 444 outbreaks of the parasite, resulting in 7,465 people becoming sick, 287 being hospitalized, and one death.
Thirty-five percent of the outbreaks were linked to treated swimming water in pools and water parks. Fifteen percent were linked to cattle, especially calves who were still nursing, and 13 percent were linked to infected people in childcare settings. Finally, 3 percent were linked to drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk or apple cider, the CDC said.
, also known as Crypto, is a parasite that spreads through the feces of infected humans or animals. People can get it from swallowing contaminated water or food. It is the leading cause of
— especially pools or water parks.
accompanying the report, Michele Hlavsa, the chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, said, “Young children can get seriously sick and easily spread Crypto. They don’t know how to use the toilet and wash their hands, or are just learning how.” Parents should help children in the bathroom to reduce the risks, she said.
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Crypto’s Tough Shell Makes It Hard to Kill
Crypto is spread by feces, which can harbor millions of Crypto germs. And only a few germs are required to make people sick. The parasite is protected by a tough shell that allows it to survive for days in chlorinated water and even on surfaces disinfected with chlorine bleach, according to the CDC.
One of the principal symptoms is watery
, which can last for up to three weeks. Outbreaks are most common in the summer.
To prevent cryptosporidiosis outbreaks, the CDC
“not swimming or attending childcare if ill with diarrhea and recommends handwashing after contact with animals.” And note, alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not work on Crypto.
Other steps you can take to limit exposure to Crypto include:
Do not swim or let kids swim if they have diarrhea.
Do not swallow the water you swim in.
Remove shoes worn in animal environments (for example, in barns) before going inside your home.
If you drink milk or apple cider, only buy it if it has been pasteurized.
If diagnosed with cryptosporidiosis, do not swim until two weeks after diarrhea completely stops.
Reversing the increase in infections
public-health messages discouraging swimming or childcare attendance for those sick with diarrhea, the CDC said.
For now, it’s unclear whether the increase is likely to continue. And the CDC notes that the rise could be due, in part, to better testing for Crypto.
“Since 2015, we know more laboratories are using a test that can all at once test for bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause diarrhea,” Brian Katzowitz, a public information specialist at the CDC, told Everyday Health. “But we also know the annual number of reported outbreaks was increasing before the widespread use of these tests, so a combination of factors might be contributing to the increase.”
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