A parasite has been spreading through Maricopa County in Arizona. According to officials, the reason for the outbreak links back to public pools.
In the beginning of the month, Public Health personnel began investigating a parasite outbreak. At that time, the number of infected cases fell just below 20. Now, the parasite has spread through Arizona to roughly 20 different public pool facilities and over 100 people.
The parasite responsible for the outbreak is called Cryptosporidium.
Cryptosporidium is a parasite that infects the intestines of a being and is one of the few kinds of parasite that can cross species barriers. This particular parasite is mostly spread through contact with infected feces.
Often, the parasite is spread when a person eats food made by someone infected after they’ve failed to properly wash their hands. Sometimes the parasite can get into a person’s body if their child is infected and they don’t wash their hands with soap and water after changing their baby’s diaper.
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It’s important to remember that hand sanitizer does not work against the Cryptosporidium parasite.
When people swim in a pool where an infected person has been, it’s very easy for the Cryptosporidium parasite to enter the healthy person’s body through their mouth or open wounds.
Usually, other parasites and diseases can’t survive in the heavily chlorinated water of a pool. The Cryptosporidium parasite, however, is incredibly resilient and can remain alive and active in chlorinated water for very long periods of time.
As outbreaks go, Cryptosporidium is not the worst of them.
Many healthy people never actually see active symptoms of the parasite. When they do, the symptoms tend to be mostly minor. Someone infected might feel stomach cramping, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever, and experience weight loss.
Diarrhea is the most common symptom experienced by people infected with the parasite.
“Most healthy people infected with Cryptosporidium may experience some unpleasant symptoms, but will recover without treatment,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, Arizona Maricopa County Department of Public Health medical director, told FOX 10 Phoenix. “It is critical, however, that anyone with diarrhea avoids swimming and preparing food for two weeks after symptoms resolve to keep it from spreading to others.”
“If you have diarrhea lasting longer than 10 days, blood in your stool, or have trouble staying hydrated, see a healthcare provider,” Sunenshine went on to explain to 12 News.
Sunenshine told CNN that the best way for people of Maricopa County in Arizona to protect themselves and their families from the parasite is to stay out of the water, especially if they are already experiencing symptoms.
“Right now, this outbreak is community-wide and there is an increased risk to those swimming at recreational water facilities. The most important thing the public can do to prevent spread of this [ parasite ] is to stay out of the water if you have diarrhea, until at least two weeks after symptoms resolve.”
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