Diarrhea-causing 'crypto' parasite cases spike around Ohio

Officials declare outbreak of waterborne illness
Posted at 10:48 AM, Aug 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-12 12:13:16-04

A dip in the pool is one way to beat the heat this hot, humid summer, but it also can spread illness, according to a report from WCPO news partner The Journal-News.

Mother Amy Howard and her 2-year-old son have spent much time this summer at a public pool.

“We come here every day. We like to get out of the house and spend time out in the sun, and we have a great time,” said Howard, of Xenia. She keeps a close eye on her son to keep him safe in the water, but it’s what she doesn’t see that could make them both sick.

Cryptosporidiosis, or crypto, is a gastrointestinal illness is caused by a microscopic parasite and is most commonly spread through water. This year, Ohio has seen a 50 percent increase in cases, and officials in central Ohio on Thursday declared an outbreak. Columbus Public Health reported 107 cases in Columbus, Franklin and Delaware counties, which is more cases than the health departments saw in the last three years combined.

The couple of cases so far this year in Greene County is typical, but public health nurse Amy Schmitt said that number could rise. “This organism is pretty hearty, and it can continue to shed for a very long time.”

The best way to reduce risk is for people, especially children, to avoid ingesting pool water, and for anyone who is sick to stay out of the water.

“We want to make sure that if they’re sick, particularly with diarrhea, they really shouldn’t be swimming,” Schmitt said. “And if they’re diagnosed with this infection called crypto — and that’s done by lab test — they should not swim for two weeks after the diarrhea has stopped.”

In addition to swimming pools, crypto can be spread at splash pads, water parks, lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.

The parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for extended periods of time that also makes it tolerant to chlorine disinfection. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pains and vomiting, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tips to avoid parasitic infections:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
  • Drink water from safe sources such as municipal water.
  • Wash all raw fruits and vegetables under running water from a safe source.
  • If possible, use a vegetable brush to scrub the outside of fruits and vegetables.
  • If camping/hiking and safe water is not available, boil water for 1 minute before drinking.
  • When swimming try not to swallow the water.
  • Be aware of water boil alerts and follow the recommendations.