Des Moines cryptosporidium outbreak case count at 68, linked to swimming pools
The Hawkeye State is battling it’s third gastrointestinal disease outbreak of the summer and it’s another parasite. The Des Moines Register reports today that The Polk County Department of Public Health said this morning that it had seen 68 confirmed cases of cryptosporidium infections this month.
Health officials report many of the cases had gone swimming recently and the Parks department confirms that the protozoan parasite has been found in several public pools.
Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director, said “because cryptosporidium is very tolerant to chlorine disinfection, it is not uncommon to see more cases in the summer months if people are not following proper etiquette and safety precautions when in pools and recreational water. This year we’re seeing more cases than usual and earlier than usual.”
In addition to cryptosporidium, the state of Iowa is investigating outbreaks of the parasitic disease cyclospora and the bacterial disease, salmonella.
Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite of both medical and veterinary importance. There are two species associated with human infection; Cryptosporidium parvum and C. hominis.
Infection with Cryptosporidium represents a wide range of severity from asymptomatic infections to life-threatening diarrhea. Asymptomatic infections are a likely source of infection for other people.
The diarrhea is profuse and watery and is associated with abdominal cramps. In immunologically healthy people symptoms may come and go and is typically cleared in less than a month.
In people who cannot clear the parasite (HIV), the infection can be prolonged and can lead to death.
Infection with Cryptosporidium is typically transmitted by the fecal-oral route; fecally contaminated water or food and person-to-person contact.
There have been several outbreaks of Cryptosporidiosis seen worldwide with most being associated with recreational water, day care centers and drinking water contamination. The most notorious is the outbreak in Milwaukee in 1993 where 400,000 people got infected through the water plants filtration system.
Could it get that bad in Des Moines? The reports notes that Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said municipal water authorities have learned since then how to prevent a recurrence. She is confident the current outbreak is not coming from drinking water. If it was, she said, thousands of cases would be appearing.
The Polk County Department of Public Health says to prevent the spread of cryptosporidium in pools, fountains and lakes follow these tips:
- Do not swim if you have diarrhea (this is essential for children in diapers). If you have been diagnosed with cryptosporidium or another parasite do not swim for at least 2 weeks after diarrhea stops.
- Shower before entering the water.
- Wash children thoroughly (especially their bottoms) with soap and water after they use the toilet or their diapers are changed and before they enter the water.
- Take children on frequent bathroom breaks and check their diapers often.
- Change diapers in the bathroom, not at the poolside.
“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.
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