East Tennessee health officials are seeing a major spike in reported cryptosporidium cases, a water-dwelling parasite that most commonly contaminates public water sources.
“It is a parasite that lives in the bowels of people who are infected with it,” said Darci Hodge, director of quality and infection control at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. “It can live in animals and it can be passed on by people or animals in living water for a short period of time, and that’s often how you and I will get it.”
Hodge said Children’s Hospital confirmed 29 reported cases of cryptosporidium this year, the biggest number of cases it’s seen in years.
Within the past five years, the second highest number of reported cases of the disease at Children’s Hospital was only five.
“It was significant enough because the Health Department and we, here, really talked a lot about it because it was odd to see so many cases,” Hodge said.
The Knox County Health Department has 34 reported cases on record this year.
“It only takes one person with this illness to have a little spill in the pool, you might say,” said Connie Cronley, an epidemiology nurse at the Health Department. “It could infect lots of folks.”
Cronley said the parasite comes with many symptoms, but not all of them may appear serious enough to contact a doctor.