Eleven confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis from infection by the microscopic parasite Cryptosporidium have been traced back to the Heaven on Earth Farm in Easton, PA, according to a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Heaven on Earth Farm is a
non-profit animal rescue farm. Operators flatly denied any connection to the outbreak in a Facebook post on March 18, saying local media reports were misleading
“There is not an outbreak of Cryptosporidium,” according to the Facebook post. “The illness can be picked up if you accidentally ingest fecal matter. This can happen by not properly washing your hands and clothes after visiting a daycare, hospital or a farm. … This is a common farm related illness not specific to Heaven on Earth Farm.
“There are several unrelated cases of Crytosporidium in the area that are not linked to the farm. It was our personal decision to close the farm to the public.”
On Feb. 14, Heaven on Earth Farm posted a notice on Facebook requesting assistance from the public in bottle-feeding a number of baby goats and calves. Individuals came from across the region in response to the request.
Some of the 11 outbreak victims required hospitalization, while others were treated on an out-patient basis. Citing privacy laws, the state health department spokesperson declined to reveal any details of the epidemiological investigation except to confirm that the outbreak was traced to the farm.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control or Prevention symptoms of cryptosporidiosis usually appear two to 10 days after infection and last one to two weeks. Symptoms can include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps or pain, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever and weight loss.
People with weakened immune systems may develop serious, chronic, and sometimes fatal illness. The parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very tolerant to chlorine disinfection.
Pennsylvania health officials are urging anyone who visited Heaven on Earth Farm on or after Feb. 14, and any individuals who may have come into contact with a visitor to the farm, to pay special attention to hand-washing and to cleaning surfaces in order to avoid spreading the parasite to others.
Anyone who develops symptoms of cryptosporidiosis after visiting or working on the farm since Feb. 14 is advised to contact the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH and to talk to their personal physician about the possible exposure to the parasite.
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