NAMPA, Idaho -- Health officials in Canyon County say cases of diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms caused by an uncommon parasite have increased ten-fold in 2012.

Southwest District Health Officials say 27 cases of cryptosporidiosis or crypto have been reported in in Canyon County in August and September. That's roughly ten times more than the same time period in 2011.

Crypto typically causes watery diarrhea with abdominal cramping, which can be accompanied by dehydration, weight loss, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Officials say the sickness is spread by swallowing water contaminated by parasites that live in human or animal waste -- most often while swimming in pools, lakes, streams, and other contaminated areas.

On Sept. 26th, Southwest District Health Officials sent out a warning with the following tips to help prevent the spread of crypto:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom, before handling and eating food, after changing diapers, before and after caring for someone who is sick, after handling an animal or animal waste, and after handling garbage. Alcohol-based gels and sanitizers are not effective in removing Cryptosporidium from your hands.
  • Do not swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread crypto and other germs in the water and make other people sick. Anyone infected with crypto should avoid activities involving recreational waters for at least two weeks after diarrhea subsides. This is especially important for children in diapers.
  • Do not swallow pool or other recreational water. Swallowing contaminated water is one way you can get sick with crypto.
  • Do practice good hygiene before swimming. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
  • Do take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear I have to go may mean that it's too late.
  • Do change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can be spread in and around the pool.
  • Do wash your children thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before they go swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.
  • Do not rely on chemicals to disinfect water and kill crypto. Crypto is not killed by disinfectants such as chlorine and iodine.

Additional information about cryptosporidiosis is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

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