Maricopa County investigates parasitic illness outbreak

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is investigating an outbreak of a diarrheal illnesses caused by a parasite.

Officials are advising the public to take precautions in order to prevent further spread of the disease.

19 cases were reported in July, and five have been linked to recreational water facilities. The names of those facilities have not been released.

"Most healthy people infected with Cryptosporidium may experience some unpleasant symptoms, but will recover without treatment," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for Maricopa County Department of Public Health. "It is critical, however, that anyone with diarrhea avoids swimming and preparing food for two weeks after symptoms resolve to keep it from spreading to others."

Other symptoms include stomach cramps, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss.

The health department states Crypto, which can be highly contagious, is typically spread in swimming pools or other recreational water when an infected person swims or plays in the water, contaminating the water with fecal matter. Although chlorine kills most germs in swimming pools, Crypto can even survive in properly chlorinated water for long periods of time. Outbreaks have also been associated with petting zoos that include contaminated livestock.

Officials recommend following these guidelines to avoid spreading the disease to others:

1. Do not swim or play in recreational water (pools, hot tubs, splash pads, lakes, rivers, etc.) if you have diarrhea and for at least 2 weeks after the diarrhea stops.

2. Wash hands with soap and water thoroughly before preparing food and after toileting or diapering. Alcohol based hand sanitizer is not effective against Crypto.

3. Avoid food preparation while symptoms last.

4. Children with diarrhea should be excluded from child care settings until the diarrhea has stopped.

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