Water-Borne Illness Becoming More Common

(WVLT) - Doctors are trying to stop the spread of an illness that is on the rise in Knox County and across Tennessee.

Volunteer TV's Jessa Goddard has the details in this week's Health Tennessean.

Cryptosporidiosis is caused by parasites that can spread in pools and water parks, even when the water has been treated with chlorine.

As summer-like weather extends into the fall, the gastrointestinal illness continues to spread.

Health officials have linked a cluster of cases to a West Knoxville water park.

Carl Cowan Park splashpad is a popular destination for families and is the site of hundreds of parties and picnics every year.

On August 28, it was the place Natalie Ramsey chose to celebrate her son's birthday party.

"About seven to ten days later, I became violently ill. And the doctors didn't know what it was," said Ramsey.

Ramsey spent weeks in and out of the hospital.

Doctors could only treat her for the dehydration she was suffering as a result of weeks of severe diarrhea.

"Finally, after my week of being in and out of the hospital and five days of being in the hospital, they found out what it was and it was cryptospordium," said Ramsey.

It is a diagnosis health officials say is being made in more doctor's offices and more emergency rooms in East Tennessee.

"They were around eachother and maybe around a similar water supply to the point that we started talking amongst ourselves in the office that something's kind of going on," said Doctor Michael Green.

That thing was cryptosporidosis, and that place was Carl Cowan Splashpad, a place Knox County Health Department workers say they have decontaminated.

"It was closed for a brief time. It was completely drained, the tanks were cleaned and sanitized, and it was refilled, which is the proper thing that you need to do," said Ronnie Nease, Knox County Environmental Health Director.

But chlorine doesn't always kill cryptosporidium and people can be contagious with the parasitic spores for up to two weeks after treatment.

"The park was closed at that time and cleaned thoroughly and opened back up, and there's been nothing else that's occurred there, that we've had any indications of, since that time," said Nease.

Natalie Ramsey says shudders to think the hundreds of parents that take their children to the splashpad every week could unknowingly be exposing their children to an illness she says nearly killed her.

"People come from all over to this park to play and bring their kids, and they have no idea," said Ramsey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently called for new technology at swimming pools and water parks, and good hygiene from their patrons to prevent cryptosporidosis.

They say swimmers should avoid the water for two weeks after symptoms end.

They should also avoid swallowing pool water, wash their hands after using a restroom or changing diapers, and shower before getting into the water.

You should also report fecal contamination to park operators.

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