Cryptosporidium underdiagnosed summer malady

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Swimming in the lake or pool is one of the enjoyable activities of summer, but not if it results in spending several precious weeks out of commission.

Between 2000 and 2014, about 500 outbreaks of cryptosporidium infections were linked to pools, spas and water parks, and more than 27,000 people were made sick and eight people died as a result of the parasite.

While there are no known fully-effective treatment options available, Xian-Ming Chen, M.D., of Creighton University has obtained a $1.9 million National Institute of Health grant to study how the body fights off the infection.

“Cryptosporidiosis is one of the most neglected and underdiagnosed parasitic diseases,” Chen said. “A better understanding how an infection happens can help in developing more effective treatment strategies.”

Crypto, a microscopic parasite, is usually caused by swallowing water contaminated with fecal matter. It is found in 65 to 97 percent of surface water in the United States, and causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps and low-grade fever. Children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for developing more severy symptoms.

Until Chen or other researchers find an effective treatment, here are some things to know:

— Cryptosporidium, not easily killed by chlorine, is the most common cause of diarrheal illness and outbreaks linked to swimming pools. It can survive up to 10 days even in properly treated water.

— Swallowling just a mouthful of contaminated water can make otherwise healthy people sick for up to three weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration.

That could be fatal for those with late-stage HIV or other immune deficiencies.

— Stay out of the pool if you have diarrhea.

— Rinse off in the shower before getting into the water to help remove any germs that could potentially contaminate the water.

— Long-term effects of a Crypto infection could include stunted growth and cognitive development deficits in children.

— Besides swallowing contaminated water, other common causes include contaminated food, particularly in a daycare setting, and unprotected sexual contact.

— Drink only boiled or filtered water when camping.

Don’t let accidental infection spoil what should otherwise be a wonderful summer.

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