The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County has issued a health alert for the county after 58 cases of a parasitic illness had been reported as of July 29. Cryptosporidium is a parasite found in contaminated water, and can make people very sick. Symptoms include severe cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. “It really has to do with coming in contact with contaminated fecal matter where this parasite lives,” said the department’s Maggie Hall on Thursday. Cryptosporidium spreads easily in water, and since half the cases have come from public pools and water parks in Pinellas County, those facilities were alerted, and one was shut down as a precaution. The disease can also be spread if hands are not washed after toilet use or changing diapers. From there, it can spread to surfaces, toys and food. The highest rates of Cryptosporidium infection are in those younger than 18. The disease also can affect animals. Hall suggested the following steps to prevent transmission of the parasite:

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