The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County is asking for the public’s help to prevent the spread of Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto), a disease that spreads easily in households, child-care settings and through swimming in contaminated water. Crypto is a parasitic disease that can cause loose, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and slight fever.

Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts
Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts/CDC/ DPDx

Cryptosporidium 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.

When the cysts are swallowed, the person becomes infected.

As of July 29, 58 cases of Cryptosporidiosis have been reported to DOH- Pinellas. Many of these cases have reported spending time at water parks or public pools during the incubation period. The highest rates of infection are in those younger than 18. Health officials are concerned that the numbers of cases could increase if proper precautions are not followed.

To help prevent Crypto, practice proper hand hygiene 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 swimming pools free from contamination, children and adults should not swim in a pool or enter a spa until at least two weeks after they have completely recovered from a diarrheal illness.

DOH-Pinellas recommends that parents and caregivers take these steps to avoid pool contamination:

  • Take children on frequent bathroom breaks and check diapers often.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom and not at the poolside as germs can spread to surfaces or objects in and around the pool and spread illness.
  • Shower before entering the water.
  • Wash their hands with soap and water after changing a child’s diaper.

Those concerned about their symptoms should contact their health-care provider.