The parasite Cryptosporidium, or as it’s more often called Crypto has been behind several outbreaks the past few summers. Last year more than 2,000 people in Utah were attacked by the parasite during a state wide outbreak.
Causing bouts of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fevers the illness can cause pain so severe that you curl up in tears. It is also a hard hitter to your pocket book. The parasite infection has had patients selling out thousands of dollars for treatment.
Most parasites are killed when chlorine is added to swimming pools. Not this hardy parasite. Because of that it’s hard to kill and easy to cause serious outbreaks. Found in human and animal feces it transmitted easily to others when in water supplies.
The parasite is a single cell 20 times smaller than the width of a human hair. When it is in the water it lives in a small egg that is resistant to cold, moist conditions. It’s a perfect mix for swimming pools. It also can live for a long time, continuing to reinfect people until it is finally eliminated.
Not only have outbreaks taken place in pools and lakes. In 1993 an outbreak in Milwaukee, Wisconsin occurred when it got in the drinking water supply. 400,000 people got sick and about 100 of those died. Most of those who succumbed to the parasite had underlying illnesses such as AIDS and cancer.
There are no medical treatments to cure the parasite. It generally will disappear on its own in two weeks to a month. Until it’s out of the body treatment of diarrhea may be needed if it becomes severe.