Hundreds of Iowans infected by parasite

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More than 350 Iowans have contracted an illness likely caused by contaminated swimming waters and contact with animals, according to health officials.

The illness, Cryptosporidiosis, is caused by a parasite, reported the Iowa Department of Health (IDPH). Symptoms of the disease are often watery diarrhea, and sometimes nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever.

The disease has affected a handful of residents in Des Moines, Johnson, Jones, Lee, Scott, and Washington Counties, according to the IDPH. The total amount of cases reported in 2012 were 328, however since June 1, 2013, Iowa has seen 272 cases, making a total of 358 cases so far in 2013.

Both people and animals can get the disease from each other. Crypto is spread by coming in contact with someone infected or by drinking water containing the parasite, reported the department of health.

The health department said most people who have gotten the illness reported swimming in pools and some lakes or rivers. The IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk advises people to avoid swimming if they have recently been sick with diarrhea.

“The most effective way to keep swimming waters healthy is by keeping unhealthy people out of them,” Dr. Quinlisk said.

Another portion of infected people said they were around animals. A spokesperson from the IDPH said it is important to wash your hands after contact with animals or their bedding, food, or waste.

The IDPH said to keep swimming safe people should

  • Avoid swimming for two weeks after experiencing diarrhea
  • Not swallow swimming water
  • Wash hands after changing diapers or using the bathroom
  • Shower before swimming
  • Change diapers in a bathroom, not by a poolside
  • Take children on frequent bathroom breaks and check swim diapers often

Health officials also have advised that parents keep children with diarrhea away from child care until they are well, and to frequently wash your hands if you are caring for someone who is ill.