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June 28, 2019

Public pool-derived fecal parasite illnesses on the rise in U.S.

Cryptosporidiosis, or 'crypto,' results in diarrhea lasting up to three weeks

Illness Public Pools
crypto public pool parasite Claes Pettersson/Unsplash

Cryptosporidiosis outbreaks are most often tied to public pools and waterparks.

Swimming is one of those (generally) summer-only activities that kids and adults look forward to every year. Since not everyone has their own pool — especially in urban settings like Philadelphia — public pools are the go-to place to cool off.

But public pools carry health risks, including cryptosporidiosis, a diarrheal disease that is on the rise, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published Friday. There have been nearly 450 outbreaks between 2009 and 2017, resulting in 7,465 cases in 40 states and Puerto Rico.

Crypto is caused by a parasite that results in “profuse, watery diarrhea that can last up to 3 weeks,” the CDC explained, and can lead to malnutrition. The parasite is often spread via fecal-oral transmission.

RELATED READ: Flesh-eating bacteria infections on the rise at beaches

"Crypto" is the number-one cause of outbreaks of diarrhea linked to water and the third-leading cause of diarrhea associated with animal contact in the United States, according to the CDC.

Swallowing contaminated water in pools or water playgrounds account for 35 percent of all crypto cases. Contact with infected cattle and contact with infected persons — often via childcare, account for 15 and 13 percents, respectively.

To prevent future outbreaks, the CDC warns people not swim or attend day care while sick with diarrhea, and avoid swimming for at least two weeks after symptoms cease.

If you think you have cryptosporidiosis, the CDC advises contacting your doctor. For diarrhea whose cause has not been determined, it offers the following advice to help relieve symptoms:

• Drink plenty of fluids to remain well hydrated and avoid dehydration. Serious health problems can occur if the body does not maintain proper fluid levels. For some people, diarrhea can be severe resulting in hospitalization due to dehydration.

• Maintain a well-balanced diet. Doing so may help speed recovery.

• Avoid beverages that contain caffeine, such as tea, coffee, and many soft drinks.

• Avoid alcohol, as it can lead to dehydration.

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