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Pool Parasite Sickening Swimmers Can Live For Days, CDC Warns

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as “Crypto.”
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as “Crypto.” Photo Credit: CDC

With the Fourth of July holiday here, health officials are warning Americans to take precautions due to the potential prevalence of parasites that have been on the rise in swimming pools.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis, according to the CDC. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as “Crypto.”

"The number of treated recreational water-associated outbreaks caused by cryptosporidium drives the summer seasonal peak in both waterborne cryptosporidiosis outbreaks and cryptosporidiosis outbreaks overall," according to a statement from the CDC.

“While this parasite can be spread in several different ways, water - drinking water and recreational water - is the most common way to spread the parasite,” the CDC noted. “Cryptosporidium is a leading cause of waterborne disease among humans in the United States.”

Those who become infected with the parasite may experience watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss. Others will have no symptoms at all.

Symptoms last approximately one to two weeks - with a range of a few days to four or more weeks - in people with healthy immune systems. Occasionally, people may experience a recurrence of symptoms after a brief period of recovery before the illness ends. Symptoms can come and go for up to 30 days.

People with weakened immune systems may develop serious, chronic, and sometimes fatal illness.

Leading causes of spreading cryptosporidiosis include swallowing contaminated water in hot tubs, pools or water playgrounds, as well as contact with infected cattle people in child-care settings, according to the CDC.

Though it's almost never fatal, one death has been reported since 2009, according to the CDC. Another 287 people were hospitalized between 2009 and 2017, the CDC said. During that time, there were 444 cryptosporidiosis outbreaks, resulting in 7,465 cases were reported by 40 states and Puerto Rico. The number of reported outbreaks has increased an average of approximately 13 percent per year

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