Crypto cases show need for caution

Jun 14 2013 - 5:47pm


Since January, the state has reported 30 cases of cryptosporidium, up slightly from last year during the same time period.

Six of those cases come from Weber County, while 13 are from Davis County. All were acquired from secondary water sources.

"We have little cases that bubble along all year," said Weber-Morgan Health Department public relations director, Lori Buttars. "But with summer here it's a good time to remind people not to go swimming when they're sick."

While the state hasn't seen an outbreak since 2007, officials say summer holds the potential for another one. After seeing an increase in cases last year, swimmers are being asked to be extra vigilant this year.

From June to December 2007, the state experienced one of the largest outbreaks reported in the United States with 1,902 confirmed cases linked to multiple recreational water venues.

Cryptosporidium is a disease caused by a parasite. It is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive for long periods of time outside the body, making it resistant to chlorine-based disinfectants.

According to the Utah Department of Health, the disease has become one of the most common causes of waterborne illnesses in humans during the past 20 years in the United States. It can be found in both drinking water and recreational water. Cryptosporidium lives in the intestine of infected humans and animals. Once infected, it passes through the stool in the form of diarrhea.

"A lot of public swimming pools have UV lights that help to destroy cryptosporidium, but not all of them have it," Buttars said. "The best way to avoid it is to stay out of the water if you're sick and at least two weeks after you no longer have symptoms."

In addition, Buttars said, avoid swallowing the water you're swimming in, wash your hands thoroughly after changing diapers, after you've been swimming and before you eat or prepare food.

Symptoms of the disease usually appear between two and 10 days after exposure and can last up to two weeks. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, dehydration, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and weight loss.

Three steps for all swimmers

* Don't swim when you have diarrhea, or if you've had it within the last two weeks. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.

* Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

* Don't swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.

Three steps for parents of young kids

* Take your kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.

* Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.

* Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before they go swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.


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