Arizona Pool Parasite: Cryptosporidium Outbreak Being Investigated By Maricopa County

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.

[Image via Shutterstock]At first glance it’s easy to write the parasite off as being difficult to catch, but humans have more contact with feces on a day-to-day basis than one might suspect – especially when pools are involved.

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.

[Image via Shutterstock]“The parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very resistant to chlorine-based disinfectants,” the Centers for Disease Control wrote in a post about the Cryptosporidium parasite.

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.”

[Image via Shutterstock]Although the infection is mild in those healthy people, others with compromised immune systems can experience much more severe symptoms of the Cryptosporidium parasite. Arizona residents that have been in a public pool lately and have a lowered immune system from any illness or age should not hesitate to seek out medical attention. People experiencing prolonged symptoms of the parasite infection, for over a week, should also visit their doctor as soon as they can.

“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.”

[Image via Shutterstock ]