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Ask Dr. Nandi: CDC issues warning on 'crypto' fecal parasite that can live for days in swimming pools

Posted at 6:10 PM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 18:10:57-04

(WXYZ) — Outbreaks linked to a fecal parasite are on the rise. Health officials are warning this illness is often spread in swimming pools.

Just when you thought relaxing at the pool was a great way to spend hot summer days, along comes a “crypto” parasite to ruin your fun. The full name is cryptosporidium – it’s a tiny, one-celled parasite that causes the illness cryptosporidiosis. You can pick this up after swallowing contaminated water.

What happens is the parasite travels to your small intestine and causes watery diarrhea that can last up to 3 weeks. You can also experience stomach cramps, dehydration and vomiting.

Now the CDC says the number of reported outbreaks has increased by about 13% each year. And over 8 years, there was a total of 444 cryptosporidiosis outbreaks nationwide, which lead to over 7,400 cases - and those were just the ones that were reported.

When you have severe diarrhea, you have to be careful of dehydration. This is especially concerning for children and pregnant women. So if diarrhea doesn’t get better within a few days, it’s best to see your doctor.

Now cryptosporidiosis can be life-threatening for anyone with a compromised immune system if they don’t get proper treatment. And there has been one death reported since 2009. But, for the most part, this is rarely fatal.

Unfortunately, cryptosporidium can live up to 7 days in pools because it is extremely tolerant to chlorine. And I should also mention that this parasite can also be found in kiddie pools, water playgrounds and lakes. You can also pick it up via infected animals.

So to help you enjoy your summer and avoid this parasite here are my prescriptions:

  1. Limit swimming activities and avoid swallowing pool or lake water.
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially if you handle newborn farm and domestic animals.
  3. If you or your child has diarrhea, please avoid swimming for up to two weeks after diarrhea subsides.
  4. Lastly, please avoid daycare if your child has diarrhea since cryptosporidium infections are contagious.