JUL 01, 2019 8:44 AM PDT

Rising Cases of a Parasitic Illness Linked to Swimming Pools

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning the public about a parasitic infection that's on the rise. The parasite Cryptosporidium can infect people that come into contact with infected animals like cattle or ingest contaminated pool or drinking water. The short video below by the Mayo Clinic has more information.

A Cryptosporidium infection causes cryptosporidiosis, which results in watery diarrhea, cramps and nausea for up to three weeks. The disease can be easily transmitted by young children that are ill with  cryptosporidiosis - their diarrhea is highly infectious. The "CDC recommends not swimming or attending childcare if ill with diarrhea and recommends hand washing after contact with animals," the organization said in a report.

From 2009 to 2017, cases of cryptosporidiosis rose an average of thirteen percent every year. In their report, the CDC noted that the number of cases might be underestimated because not every case will be identified and reported; reporting standards also differ from state to state. However, molecular testing that identifies Cryptosporidium has improved dramatically in recent years, which may be one reason why more instances are being recorded.

"We know more laboratories are using a test that can all at once test for bacteria, viruses and parasites that cause diarrhea," explained Dr. Radhika Gharpure, of the CDC's Waterborne Disease and Prevention Branch. However, the annual level of crypto cases was increasing even before these tests were widely used, and several factors may be tied to the rise, Gharpure told Live Science.

In places where cattle, sheep, and goats live, the parasite is "unavoidable and widespread" noted the CDC, but the illness also peaks in the summer, when people are out using recreational water. The parasite is the primary cause of illness caused by recreational water activities, and it can survive in chlorinated water for ten days or more. A small swallow of contaminated water can spread the disease.

The CDC is trying to educate the public about taking the right preventive measures, including keeping kids with diarrhea our of daycare and pool water so that it doesn't continue to spread. Proper handwashing practices are good to use all the time, but especially before and after swimming, touching animals, or changing diapers, for example.

Learn more about the World Health Organization's recommendations on hand washing from the video above by Johns Hopkins University.

Sources: Live Science, CDC

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  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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