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1,800 infected; water park blamed

Reports of diarrheal disease began in June, New York officials say

From Debra Goldschmidt



New York

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Nearly 1,800 people from 20 New York counties have reported symptoms of a gastrointestinal illness related to a water attraction at Seneca Lake State Park in upstate New York, according to the New York State Department of Health and New York State Parks Department.

The attraction has been closed down for the rest of the summer.

Thirteen cases have been confirmed by state and private labs as cryptosporidiosis, a diarrheal disease caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium. Its tough outer shell allows the parasite to resist disinfectants such as chlorine.

While the most common symptom is diarrhea, other symptoms include dehydration, stomach cramps, weight loss, fever, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms typically begin within days of exposure and usually last for two weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

While the CDC is not involved in the ongoing investigation, New York's health department is consulting with them.

Jeffrey Hammond, spokesman for the New York State Department of Health, told CNN on Friday, "We have linked this gastrointestinal outbreak to the Sprayground attraction, and it has been closed down for the year."

The State Parks Department temporarily closed the Sprayground of water jets and sprinklers Monday as soon as the state health department notified it of reports of illness, according to Wendy Gibson, spokeswoman for the State Parks Department.

The two departments launched a joint investigation into the illness' cause.

Tests confirmed the parasite's presence in two storage tanks that supply water to the 11,000 square-foot attraction.

Tests determined that a nearby lake is not contaminated and can remain open.

This week, people have been contacting the health and parks departments to report illnesses or symptoms dating back to June park visits. "Many people who reported illness have fully recovered," Hammond said.

For people with symptoms

Anyone who has visited the park since late July and is having symptoms is urged to contact the local health department or a physician. Family members and close contacts of people who have been ill and are experiencing symptoms should do the same.

People who have symptoms are advised not to swim in recreational water -- including swimming pools, hot tubs and lakes -- until two weeks after the symptoms have ended. This advice is to prevent further spread of the disease.

Health care workers, day-care staff, and food workers with symptoms are urged to stay home from work until they feel better.

The health department also is reminding people to wash their hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, and before eating and preparing food.

There are no known cases reported in other states.

Outbreaks of the disease are not unusual in late summer months and are sometimes associated with community swimming pools.

One way to prevent illness is to not swallow water when swimming or wading in a recreational setting.

Cryptosporidium is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in humans in the United States, according to the CDC.

In April 1993, 403,000 Milwaukee-area residents and visitors were stricken, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The outbreak was linked to inadequate treatment of drinking water from Lake Michigan.

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