Swimming Pool Parasite Hits Metro - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Swimming Pool Parasite Hits Metro

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Addie Olson



A parasite called cryptosporidium is spreading in swimming pools that have been contaminated by fecal matter.

The parasite causes some pretty serious flu like symptoms.

"Watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting - the symptoms can last up to four weeks," said Sarah Boese of the Polk County Health Department.

Sixty-eight cases of cryptosporidium have already been reported in Polk County this July, compared to just six during the month of July last year.

It's passed on in the water.

"If someone has diarrhea, particularly babies or infants in diapers, and then is in a public swimming pool, it can be spread to others who swallow that water," said Boese.

Doctors can't say why the metro has seen so many more cases this year. It comes just weeks after an outbreak of cyclospora — another diarrhea causing parasite.

Cyclospora comes from contaminated produce, unlike the waterborne cryptosporidium - which spreads rampantly because the strain is resistant to chlorine.

"The most well maintained, clean pools can be contaminated the minute someone who's had cryptosporidium enters that water," Boese said.

Trying not to swallow pool water can decrease your chances of contracting cryptospordium, but the only way to avoid it all together is to stop it from entering the water in the first place.

"If you've had diarrhea over the last two weeks or your child has had diarrhea in the last two weeks, avoid swimming in public pools," said Boese.

Most people who have a healthy immune system can manage cryptosporidium without treatment, but if you have any of those symptoms you're urged to see your health care provider to get it diagnosed.

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