Tummy bug outbreak sparks warning

Last updated 10:22 17/07/2013

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Taranaki is suffering an outbreak of a stomach bug caused by parasites, the region's medical officer of health is warning.

There had been 24 cases of cryptosporidiosis reported since the start of year compared with none for the same period last year, Dr Jonathan Jarman said yesterday.

"Cryptosporidium is not normally a serious disease but it can be dangerous for people with lowered immunity," he said.

"Diarrhoea and tummy cramps for two weeks aren't much fun."

"Some of the cases were children but half were adults, and similar outbreaks have also been seen in other parts of New Zealand.

"The main symptoms are diarrhoea, often watery, stomach cramps, lack of appetite and weight loss," Jarman said.

The illness may last two weeks or more. There is no treatment except for making sure that the patient does not become dehydrated.

The illness is caused by a tiny parasite found in the guts of birds, fish, reptiles (such as geckos and turtles), humans and animals such as cattle, sheep, cats and dogs. It is passed on in the faeces of infected animals and humans.

The usual risk factors for cryptosporidiosis are living on a farm and having contact with farm animals.

"However some cases in Taranaki became unwell after recently swimming in a pool," Jarman said.

"It is important that people with recent tummy bug symptoms stay away from swimming pools, otherwise they may spread the illness to others," he said.

The bugs are excreted by sick people for several weeks once they have recovered from the illness.

COPING WITH CRYPTOSPORIDIOSIS

People should not go swimming in a pool if they have diarrhoea.

Wait until at least two weeks after the symptoms have gone.

See a doctor if the symptoms are severe, if worried or if the illness does not get better after 2-3 days.

Wash hands thoroughly after contact with animals or animal faeces, after caring for people with diarrhoea, after going to the toilet, and before and during food preparation.

Use plenty of soap, clean under your fingernails, rinse your hands well and dry them on a clean towel.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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