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Maricopa County investigating stomach illnesses at public water facilities

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

PHOENIX — Officials are investigating several cases of a bacterial stomach illness, some of which have been linked to water facilities, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health said Thursday.

The county said it is looking into 19 cases of illness caused by Cryptosporidium parvum, a bacteria that causes diarrhea. Five of those have been linked to recreational water facilities. The locations were not released.

The bacteria is spread when an infected person swims or plays in water, contaminating the water with fecal matter. The bacteria can survive in properly-chlorinated pools.

“Most healthy people infected with cryptosporidium may experience some unpleasant symptoms, but will recover without treatment,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said in a press release.

The most common symptom of the infection is watery diarrhea that begins 2-10 days after it’s contracted. Other symptoms include cramps, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever and weight loss. Sunenshine said anyone who experiences symptoms longer than 10 days or other medical complications should see a doctor.

The bacteria is highly contagious. Anyone infected should stay out of the water for a couple weeks to stop its spread.

“It is critical that anyone with diarrhea avoids swimming and preparing food for two weeks after symptoms resolve to keep it from spreading to others,” Sunenshine said.

In addition, those infected should was their hands often with soap and water (hand sanitizer is ineffective), avoid preparing food and children should be kept out of child care until the symptoms have subsided.

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