ORANGE COUNTY – The outbreak of an illness caused by a water-borne parasite has likely been contained  in Orange and Durham Counties. No new cases had been reported as of December 22, according to health officials.

The first case of Cryptosporidiosis was reported the week of December 6.

Stacy Shelp, Public Information Director for the Orange County Health Department, said that Cryptosporidiosis is a disease caused by a parasite, Cryptosporidium (Crypto), that can be transmitted from one swimmer to another in pools.

“We are feeling very confident that we got ahead of this and that we are past a lot of it at this point,” Shelp said. “We have gone through two incubation periods, which is what we were waiting for with no new cases and no new cases outside of the swim team members.”

A number of pools in Orange and Durham Counties, including the Chapel Hill Aquatic Center, voluntarily took the control measure of hyperchlorinating their pools, as recommended by the Orange County Health Department. It was also suggested that area pools hyperchlorinate weekly to ensure that the spread of the illness was contained.

Crypto is found in the fecal matter of an infected person. It can survive in water for a number of days, even in a properly chlorinated pool. Symptoms usually develop within 12 days of exposure and include: watery diarrhea, stomach pain and cramps, and a low fever. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.

Hyperchlorination is only effective if infected individuals do not reenter the pool for two weeks after their last diarrheal event.

“At this point, the last count we had was 16 total cases—10 in Durham County and six in Orange County,” Shelp said.

As the swimmers head back into the pools post-Christmas break, Shelp said the Health Department is hopeful that the outbreak has been contained, but warns that swimmers should still obey all precautionary measures.

“My understanding from our Communicable Disease Team is that at this point we are considering it contained,” Shelp said. “We are continuing to work with the pools in hyperchlorination, etc., but we are encouraging people who are sick to not get into the pools if they have had diarrhea.”

Due to the nature of crypto and how easily it can be contracted, Shelp said no specific pools have been identified as the source of the parasite.

Prevention and control measures suggested by the OC Health Department:

  1. STAY OUT OF THE POOL while you continue to have diarrhea or have had diarrhea anytime in the past two weeks
  2. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, see your medical provider and ask about testing for Cryptosporidium
  3. If your stool test is negative for Crypto and you no longer have diarrhea, you may return to swimming