Cryptosporidium cases continue to rise in Polk County: Prevent spread in schools

The number of cryptosporidium cases in Polk County has continued to rise to over 170 cases since early July. This parasite causes severe diarrhea for up to 30 days. So far this outbreak has been spreading through contaminated recreational water, but it can also be spread from person to person. 

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director, said “We have been working with local swimming pools to slow down the outbreak but as summer ends we will be focusing on reducing the secondary spread of the parasite in order to keep the outbreak out of schools when classes begin. The cryptosporidium parasite is resistant to many typical disinfectants and can survive on surfaces making it possible to spread from person to person.”

Cryptosporidium can live in the intestine of humans and animals and is passed in the stool of an infected person. A person can get cryptosporidium by coming in contact with the feces of another person who has it. This can happen by changing a diaper or when a person sick with cryptosporidium fails to wash their hands thoroughly after using the restroom then touches an object or prepares food. The parasite can also be found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with feces from infected humans or animals. A person can become infected by accidentally swallowing the parasite.

“In addition to proper pool etiquette you can reduce your risk of not only cryptosporidium but a range of other illnesses by washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and by washing fruits and vegetables,” said Kozin.

Everyone should wash their hands thoroughly often but especially before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before and after helping someone who has used the bathroom or has diarrhea. Because fecal matter and the cryptosporidium parasite are microscopic, fecal contamination is usually not visible to the eye.

See your health care provider if you suspect you have a parasite illness or if you are in poor health, have a weakened immune system or are pregnant. These people and young children are at higher risk for more severe and prolonged illness or dehydration. To learn more about cryptosporidium visit http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto/

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