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“Crypto” Outbreak Strikes Four Areas of England

Just in time for the Queen’s Jubilee, four regions of England are reporting outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis.

The counties of North East, Yorkshire, West Midlands and East Midlands together have reported 267 cases since May 11, 2012, compared to 73 cases across the four counties during all of 2011.

Britain’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) reported the outbreak on the eve of the four-day celebration to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the British throne.

The illnesses, for which there is no specific treatment, is caused by the Cryptosporidium parasite, a tiny organism found in soil, food, water, or on surfaces contaminated with infected human or animal droppings.

People are often infected with “Crypto” by swallowing water while swimming in pools, rivers or lakes. It is often associated with hot weather when pool treatment systems can be strained.

The Queen’s Jubilee included the first river pageant in 350 years, but participants in that even were mostly drinking champagne.

HPA said a multi-agency investigation into the Crypto outbreak is underway to see if the cases in the four regions are in some way linked. So far, investigators have not identified a possible source of infection and the distribution of the cases suggests it is unlikely that public water supplies are implicated.

The illnesses in the four regions of England primarily involved adults, most of whom are women. Mild to moderate illnesses have marked most of the cases, although some victims were admitted to hospitals for short stays.

“It is usual to see an increase in cryptosporidiosis cases in the early summer, but, the increase is higher than we might expect so we are working with National Health Service (NHS) partners, local Environmental Health Officers, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to see if there is a common source of infection, ” says Dr. Stephen Morton, who is leading the investigation for HPA, according to The Telegraph.

The investigation has asked physicians in the four areas to be vigilant to further cases.  If a common source is found, further health advice to the public will be issued.

For now, residents of Great Britain are being advised not to drink untreated water and to avoid swallowing water in lakes and swimming pools. They are also being urged to engage in good hand washing practices.

The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis is diarrhea, which can range from mild to severe.

Other symptoms include stomach pains, dehydration, weight loss and fever, all which along with the diarrhea, can last as long as three weeks.

Most people with healthy immune systems recover from a Crypto infection in about a month.  People recovering should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

HPA is the United Kingdom’s independent agency for infectious diseases and environmental hazards, established in 2003.  Next year, it will become part of Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health.

The four regions involved in the outbreak are all north of London.  North East, Yorkshire, and East Midlands are all on the east coast of England, and West Midlands is in the interior.

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