UPDATE - August 18: Public health officials have confirmed the outbreak of cryptosporidiosis has grown to 202 cases in Franklin and Delaware counties - MORE INFO
UPDATE - August 12: On Friday, Columbus Public Health announced 10 more cases of 'crypto' for a total of 117 cases.
Public health officials have officially declared an outbreak of Cryptosporidiosis, a microscopic parasite that causes diarrhea.
This comes after 107 cases have been reported so far this year in Columbus, Franklin County and Delaware County. That’s more than the past three years combined.
“This is widespread in our community at this time,” said Mysheika Roberts, Medical Director/Assistant health commissioner for Columbus Public Health. “It's been a really hot summer and people have been enjoying themselves in the water but we want to make sure they do it safely.”
A large portion of the cases include people with multiple exposures at various recreational water facilities throughout the three jurisdictions. However, the outbreak is not tied to any one location.
“What we are finding is many of our cases have attended multiple venues during their incubation period during the time where they could have been exposed. So it's really hard to say which one was the facility that caused their illness,” said Roberts.
According to the CDC, symptoms of cryptosporidiosis generally begin 2 to 10 days after becoming infected with the parasite. The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis is watery diarrhea. Symptoms also include: stomach cramps or pain, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever, weight loss.
“It's transmitted from hands to mouth,” said Roberts. “So you would touch something that's contaminated, in this case it's usually water and then you put it in your mouth whether it's because you swallowed the water [or] whether you ate something.”
Leah Deason is a mom of two. She says she talked to her three year old and made sure he knew to tell her if he ever had to use the restroom while playing in water. She also taught her kids to wash their hands thoroughly.
“It's just very alarming because of the fact that, I hope to God they don't end up dehydrated and in the hospital just because of a silly sickness,” Deason said.
Most people who have healthy immune systems will recover without treatment. Diarrhea can be managed by drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. People who are in poor health or who have weakened immune systems are at higher risk for more severe and prolonged illness.
According to Columbus Public Health officials, pool and recreational operators have been contacted by the department with guidelines to post or make sure employees are aware of. Roberts says daycares will also receive similar information.
Health officials have provided the following tips for anyone planning on going to a spray fountain, pool or waterpark:
- Do not swim when you have diarrhea and for two weeks after you recovered.
- Do not pee or poop in the water.
- Take a shower/bathe before going in the water.
- Wash hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing diapers and before eating.
- Change diapers in a bathroom and not by the pool.
- Take kids on frequent bathroom breaks and check diapers often.
- Avoid swallowing any water and keep it out of your mouth.