Parasites in Community Pools Spark Outbreak in Arizona

A parasite that officials believe was in at least 20 community pools has sickened more than 100 people in Maricopa County, Arizona. The parasite is passed through stool and is commonly transmitted through contaminated drinking water or recreational water facilities that have infected fecal matter present.

Cryptosporidium, or “Crypto,”is a highly contagious parasite that is difficult to get rid of because chlorine is not always effective in killing it. According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol-based hand sanitizer isn’t effective against Crypto, so washing hands with soap and water is found to be the best prevention.

The problems caused by Crypto range from stomach cramps to fever and vomiting. The most common symptom is watery diarrhea which usually begins a week after infection. For individuals with healthy immune systems, normally no treatment is needed and usually recovery takes one or two weeks, reports NBC News.

In a press release, Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the medical director for Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said there is no reliable test for Crypto in water, therefore, there is no way to know which pools are contaminated. “The most important thing the public can do to prevent the disease is to stay out of the water if you have diarrhea, until at least two weeks after symptoms resolve.”

Dr. Sunenshine advised swimmers to avoid swallowing water from pools and to seek medical attention if diarrhea lasts longer than 10 days, if blood is present in stools, or staying hydrated is problematic. The healthcare provider should be informed that the individual may have been exposed to Cryptosporidium.

Officials did not announce which pools had been identified, but said the Maricopa County Department of Public Health notified the particular facilities and recommended they follow decontamination procedures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The parasite was first discovered on August 4 after 19 cases were reported in July in Maricopa County. Phoenix is part of Maricopa where last July, there had only been 4 cases, according to NBC affiliate KPNX.

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