Outbreaks of two organisms that cause diarrhea prompted the Northern Kentucky Health Department to issue a health alert last week, asking people to wash hands thoroughly, and to stay home and avoid swimming pools if they are ill.

More than 125 cases of Shigella have been reported in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties since April, the health department said. Typically, about 25 cases are reported for the entire year. Meanwhile, seven cases of Cryptosporidiosis, also known as Crypto, have been reported since June 1, including five in the last week. Typically, four cases of Crypto are reported in Northern Kentucky for the entire year.

Both organisms have similar symptoms and are transmitted in similar ways; they can spread easily from person-to-person. It’s not unusual to see outbreaks of Shigella and Crypto at the same time. A small amount in a swimming pool or on a shopping cart can cause illness.

Shigella is a bacteria that infects the bowels; symptoms of Shigellosis include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting. Young children, who may not be attentive to good hygiene, are especially susceptible because it is spread through contact with the stool of an infected person.

Crypto is caused by microscopic parasites. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps or pain, fever, nausea and vomiting. The illness often comes in waves, with individuals feeling better and then experiencing another bout.

The Health Department recommended the following measures to help control spread of the organisms:

– Wash hands frequently, including before preparing food, after using the restroom, after changing a diaper and before and after caring for someone who is sick. Rub hands together for at least 20 seconds, and use soap and water.

– Anyone who has had diarrhea should wait for at least two weeks after feeling better before going swimming.

– Don’t change diapers at poolside.

– Take frequent bathroom breaks while at the pool.

– When shopping and at other public places, use hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for carts when available or bring your own to use. If you notice that a public restroom is dirty, alert management.