"The number of outbreaks associated with recreational water caused by cryptosporidium causes the seasonal summer peak in both cryptosporidiosis and cryptosporidiosis epidemics," according to a statement from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although it is almost never fatal, a death has been reported since 2009, according to the CDC. Another 287 people were hospitalized between 2009 and 2017, the CDC says.
- Between 2009 and 2017, there were 444 outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis reported in 40 states and Puerto Rico.
- The epidemics have killed 7,465 people.
- The recreational water – mostly swimming pools, but also children's pools and water playgrounds – was responsible for 156, more than a third of the cases.
- Untreated water (like lakes) and drinking water have caused 22 other cases.
- Eighty-six cases concerned contact with animals, especially cattle.
- Another 57 cases were associated with child care settings.
- Twenty-two cases were of food origin, most of which involved unpasteurized milk or apple cider.
- Most cases were reported in July and August, and 2016 was a peak year for epidemics with more than 80.
- The number of cases increased on average by 12.8% between 2009 and 2017.
The CDC adds two points to the figures, which it suspects underestimate the number of real cases and outbreaks: the peak in cases may be the result of a new test technology, and the requirements and the ability to detect, investigate and report cases vary by jurisdiction.
It is also worth noting that the death of cryptosporidiosis occurred only in the case in which the parasite was transmitted to a hospital setting.
In swimming pools, cryptosporidium can enter the body when a swimmer swallows contaminated water.
The parasite is a problem in swimming pools because an infected swimmer can expel the parasite at several orders of magnitude higher than the amount needed to cause the infection. Cryptosporidium has a high tolerance to chlorine and can survive in a properly chlorinated pool for up to seven days, says the CDC.
Preventive measures exist that can help contain the number of outbreaks and the CDC is working to educate the public about them.
Young people suffering from diarrhea should not be included in the care of children, according to the CDC and, following a cryptosporidiosis epidemic, children should clean the surfaces with hydrogen peroxide, since bleach is an ineffective means to kill the parasite.
People who come into contact with livestock must wash their hands thoroughly and remove shoes or clothing to avoid contaminating other environments, such as their homes.
As for swimming pools, anyone suffering from diarrhea should avoid swimming until two weeks after their diarrhea has subsided, says the CDC.
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