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It’s a typical summer day at the neighborhood pool. You’re catching up on a good book while the kids splash and dive under the water, sputtering as they come up for air and no doubt swallowing a little water in the process. A mom near you is sitting on the edge of the pool, changing her baby’s diaper, and you think nothing of it. But, that’s where it all starts.
That hot sun beating down overhead is evaporating not only the pool water, but also the chlorine that normally protects you from the spread of disease in the water. Though that mother may be well-meaning, even a few dozen microscopic parasite eggs shedding from that dirty diaper – or her hands – into the pool water is enough to infect another child with cryptosporidium, also known as Crypto, the now famous “pool parasite.”
Crypto is a microscopic parasite with a hard, protective outer shell, which makes it difficult to eradicate. It’s found anywhere that human or animal feces have contaminated the water. Historically, it’s been people who live in agricultural areas and people who go deep into the wilderness and drink from what they think are pristine water sources who are exposed to Crypto. Now, Crypto has spread to childcare facilities, municipal water supplies, and what has become the most common source – public swimming pools.
You would think the chemicals used in public pools would be enough to keep this parasite at bay, but it often isn’t. The normal daily levels of chlorine are not strong enough to penetrate the tough outer shell of this parasite. It’s only when the pool is chemically shock treated that the parasite breaks down and becomes harmless. Undiluted 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle is an effective disinfectant you can use to clean contaminated surfaces in childcare facilities, but it will lose its effectiveness if diluted at all.
Crypto is found all over the world and in every state in the US. According to the CDC, almost 750,000 cases occur every year in the US alone. The CDC has seen as many as 80 outbreaks in one year, and we are currently in peak Crypto season.
Once you catch Crypto, it lives in your intestines and you shed millions of parasites into each bowel movement, though it only takes a few to pass it along to another person or animal. Once you are infected, expect up to 3 weeks of watery, explosive diarrhea if you simply allow it to run its course. Symptoms are more severe in people who have decreased immunity.
Shedding the parasite begins with the first episode of explosive diarrhea, and ends weeks after the symptoms are gone. So, the CDC recommends staying out of swimming pools the entire time you have diarrheal symptoms, plus at least 2 weeks after the symptoms are gone.
Whether you are a wilderness lover or simply enjoy taking your kids to the waterpark, there are steps you can take to avoid infection with Crypto:
Concerned for parasite exposure, he and I packed plenty of clean water with us and both took our Para-Key before we headed out. These unfortunate women did not heed his warning and drank what they assumed to be pristine water they found on their hike. I can’t say for certain that the parasite they contracted was Crypto, but I can say they were miserably sick in their rooms shortly after this excursion.
Sweet wormwood, taken at 1000 milligrams 3 times daily, has been recommended by herbalists to take once infected with Crypto. I personally recommend a broad-spectrum multi-herb combination and would take Para-Key 3 times daily for 2 months if I felt I had been exposed to Crypto. If your immune system is weak, I encourage you to seek medical attention at the first sign of infection.
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