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Fecal Parasite Hits Public Swimming Pools. Heres What Parents Can Do

The parasite can result in "profuse, watery diarrhea" for as long as three weeks.

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Nothing says summer quite like a day at the local pool. But fun in the sun can quickly turn sour if certain precautions aren’t taken to maintain public health. Last week, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a report warning about the rise of cryptosporidium, a fecal parasite that can result in “profuse, watery diarrhea” for weeks. The parasite is a common cause of water-related illness in the United States, but spikes in the summer season as families swarm to public pools. Cryptosporidium also thrives in pools, as it is tolerant to chlorine and can survive for up to 10 days.

Between 2009 and 2017, 444 outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis, the name for the condition caused by the parasite, have been reported. The cases occurred in 40 U.S. states and Puerto Rico and affected 7,465 people. The CDC reports that of the 444 cases, 254 of them (57.2%) were reported in the Great Lake states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The majority of crypto cases crop up in recreational water (swimming pools, kiddie pools, and water playgrounds) and result from swallowing contaminated water.

Though cryptosporidiosis (nicknamed “crypto”) is almost never fatal, there has been one reported death since 2009. The condition can also pose serious health risks for children, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms

Symptoms typically set in two to seven days after exposure, and include stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and watery diarrhea. It’s also possible that an infected person shows no symptoms, but spread the parasite to others. If infected, there’s usually no need for medical treatment, as the condition will clear up on its own. Please keep this part in mind.

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What to Do

This might sound somewhat scary, but as long as parents take certain precautions, they don’t need to be too worried. The CDC recommends not swimming or attending childcare if ill with diarrhea and always hand washing after contact with animals (which can also spread the parasite). It’s also worth noting that though the CDC reports crypto cases increase at an average of 13% per year, this might actually be due to new testing technology, rather than an actual increase in the parasite.

So, in short, this isn’t a new problem per se, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful.