There has been a steady increase in recent years outbreaks of illnesses in pools, hot tubs and lakes across the United States, resulting from a parasite called Cryptosporidium, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

In a CDC issued statement, the agancy recounts 90 documented illness outbreaks in 32 states plus Puerto Rico for the years 2011-2012. The illnesses affected more than 1,788 people and caused at least 95 hospitalizations and one death.

A similar CDC study in May of this year highlighted the risk of Novovirus from swimming pools. Michael Beach, Ph.D, CDC’s associate director for healthy water, cautioned:

“Children are prime targets for norovirus and other germs that can live in lakes and swimming pools because they’re so much more likely to get the water in their mouths,” “Keeping germs out of the water in the first place is key to keeping everyone healthy and helping to keep the places we swim open all summer.”

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as “Crypto.”

Michele Hlavsa, of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, noted that the parasite is especially troubling due to how long it can live in treated water.

“It can survive for 10 days. With these outbreaks, we see they disproportionately affect young children. They’re the ones who can go to a pool and young children tend to carry lots of germs”, Hlavasa said to ABC News.

According to the CDC, the reccommendations for keeping swimmers and swimming facilities healthy are to:

  • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.

  • Shower before you get in the water.

  • Don’t pee or poop in the water.

  • Don’t swallow the water.

How is Cryptosporidium Infection Treated?

From the CDC site:

“Most people who have healthy immune systems will recover without treatment. Diarrhea can be managed by drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. People who are in poor health or who have weakened immune systems are at higher risk for more severe and prolonged illness. Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to dehydration resulting from diarrhea and should drink plenty of fluids while ill. Rapid loss of fluids from diarrhea may be especially life threatening to babies. Therefore, parents should talk to their healthcare providers about fluid replacement therapy options for infants.

Anti-diarrheal medicine may help slow down diarrhea, but a healthcare provider should be consulted before such medicine is taken. Nitazoxanide has been FDA-approved for treatment of diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium in people with healthy immune systems and is available by prescription. However, the effectiveness of nitazoxanide in immunosuppressed individuals is unclear.

HIV-positive individuals who suspect they have cryptosporidiosis should contact their healthcare provider. For those persons with AIDS, anti-retroviral therapy that improves the immune status will also decrease or eliminate symptoms of cryptosporidiosis. However, even if symptoms disappear, cryptosporidiosis is often not curable and the symptoms may return if the immune status worsens."

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