The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) is asking for the public’s help to prevent the spread of cryptosporidiosis (Crypto), a disease that spreads easily person to person in households, child-care settings and schools, through swimming in contaminated water or from contact with animals. Crypto is a parasitic disease that can cause loose, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and slight fever. These symptoms may come and go, with individuals experiencing symptoms, feeling better, and then becoming ill again.
According to Mackenzie Tewell, DOH-Hillsborough Epidemiologist, symptoms may appear 1-14 days after Crypto is swallowed, but usually around 7 days.
Cryptosporidiosis is often spread by hands contaminated with feces during toilet use or diaper-changing. From the hands, it can spread to surfaces, toys and food. It also spreads easily in water, including chlorinated swimming pools.
“Many cases of Crypto start with one or two episodes of loose stools,” said Tewell. “It’s important that parents don’t delay in contacting their health care provider to arrange stool testing, because Crypto can spread easily in household and among classmates.”
DOH-Hillsborough continues to see a rise in the number of cases of cryptosporidiosis, and numbers have increased greatly since the beginning of school. Since July 1, 2014, 201 cases of cryptosporidiosis have been reported by DOH-Hillsborough, as compared to 11 cases during the same time period last year. Nearly 70% of these cases have been in individuals under the age of 18.
To help prevent Crypto, practice good hand washing before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, before and after tending to someone who is ill with diarrhea and after changing diapers. To keep water free from contamination, children and adults should not swim in pools, splash pads, or hot tubs with diarrhea and until two weeks after their diarrhea has stopped.
DOH-Hillsborough County recommends that parents and caregivers take these steps to the spread of Crypto:
* Stay home when you are sick with diarrhea and/or vomiting, and do not return
to daycare, school or work until symptom free for 24 hours.
* Hand sanitizer is not effective against Crypto. Do not substitute hand
sanitizer for hand washing.
* Wash hands well after contact with animals, even household pets.
* While swimming, take children on frequent bathroom breaks and check diapers
* Do not change diapers poolside as germs can spread to surfaces or objects in
and around the pool and spread illness.
* Shower before entering pools, splash pads or hot tubs.
* Wash your hands and the child’s hands with soap and water after diaper
Persons with symptoms of Crypto should see their health care provider for evaluation and testing. Given the number of cases of cryptosporidiosis DOH-Hillsborough Epidemiology Program is seeing in the community, DOH-Hillsborough is asking health care providers to consider testing for cryptosporidiosis when patients present with diarrheal illnesses.