Iowa is having an increasing number of cases of cryptosporidium this year. This has caused the public health department to alert the community in an effort to prevent the spread of the illness.
Cryptosporidium is found in the feces of infected people and animals can contaminate soil, food, water, or surfaces. An individual becomes infected with the Cryptosporidium parasite by accidentally swallowing contaminated food or water or having contact with other contaminated objects. We know that Cryptosporidium may be transmitted through swimming pools and lakes when swimmers swallow contaminated water. Within households and day care facilities we know that Cryptosporidiosis is easily spread person-to-person. For example, in a household setting a family member with diarrhea who uses the toilet and does not wash his or her hands, can contaminate food or surfaces that will then spread the germ to other family members. In a typical day care setting, diapering, shared toys, lots of hand-to-mouth contact and poor hygiene allows transmission of the germ between children. Hand washing is the most effective means of preventing Cryptosporidium transmission. Wash hands regularly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food.
The symptoms of cryptosporidiosis include diarrhea, loose or watery stools, stomach cramps, upset stomach, and a slight fever. For many people, symptoms can be mild. Symptoms generally occur within 2 to 12 days of infection. They last about two weeks, but may go in cycles of getting better then worse before the illness ends. Many have a brief recurrence of symptoms after the initial round of symptoms has resolved. People may excrete the parasite for up to two weeks after diarrhea has stopped. The infection may be very severe in people with impaired immune systems. Persons with persistent symptoms above should consult their health provider if they are ill and need clinical advice for managing their illness.
Once introduced into a community, Cryptosporidium can be spread for months if the public is not vigilant about the key hygiene measures needed to stop the spread of the germ. Therefore, public health interventions have focused on measures known to help control the spread of the disease.
Persons with Cryptosporidiosis should avoid close personal contact with persons in their household especially if the household member has a weakened immune system. If persons with weakened immune systems become infected, Cryptosporidium can be a life-threatening disease. Persons with the illness should take care to drink plenty of fluids to avoid the dehydration from diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium. They should consult a health care provider for information on preventing dehydration.
Preventing the Spread from one person to the next:
For more information, individuals may call the Emmet County Health Department at 712-362-2490.