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Parasite outbreak over

Two weeks after Madison County Health Department discovered its first case of cryptosporidiosis, the outbreak appears to be over.

The Health Department had no new cases of the intestinal parasite since Friday. However, health officials still don’t know the source of the outbreak that rose to 52 cases, most of whom were preschool children.

St. Francois County on Tuesday confirmed three cases, two of whom are siblings. All are children. Although health officials have no evidence linking these cases to area pools, they asked that the pools voluntarily shut down last week.

“We asked them to close because we knew that Madison County children were coming up here to swim after their pool closed,” said Diane Williams, director of the St. Francois County Health Department. “We had no idea whether or not those children were sick, and we wanted to make sure the parasites didn’t get passed on.”

Testing has eliminated one potential source in Fredericktown. The city’s water, which comes from a local lake, was deemed safe last week by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Madison County health investigators said it might be a long time to find out where and how the parasites are spreading. They might never be able to pin down the source, said Jenny Sikes, a public health specialist in the health inspector’s office.

“We may just be able to find how it was passed from one person to the next,” she said.

The investigative process is taxing. Officials collect information about each confirmed case, including where the person has been recently. Then they cross reference the information with previous cases. So far, there has been no commonality, Hunt said.

Some children had been in the Fredericktown pool, many had been in day care, but some had been in neither. While most confirmed cases are in children, some are teenagers and young adults.

Health department work includes educating the community about preventative measures. Proper handwashing, as well as using bleach solutions to disinfect household areas, are keys to removing or killing the parasites.

St. Francois County has issued similar information and St. Francois County pools have closed in an attempt to prevent an outbreak here.

Fredericktown voluntarily closed its pool on Aug. 8 after learning of the first two confirmed cases. The pool has been drained and totally disinfected, according to a letter from the DNR.

The Department of Natural Resources visited Fredericktown earlier in the week to test city water and water in the treatment center. In a letter sent on Thursday to the city, the DNR said that “extensive testing of the City’s water system…confirm that the water system is free from the parasites Cryptosporidium and Giardia.”

Fredericktown gets its water from City Lake. The water is pumped to a basin for processing, which includes treating it with carbon, lime, alum and other chemicals. The water undergoes clarifying and filtering and is chlorinated during three steps in the process.

According to the letter, DNR officials reviewed “previously collected data from disinfection graphs and electronically recorded inline turbidimeters.” The studies showed that the water treatment plant is in compliance with state regulations and that parasites cannot infiltrate the system.

The agency also spent 16 hours testing the city’s water distribution system. Those tests were negative for Cryptosporidium, Giardia and Coliform bacteria.

Water samples from City Lake showed no detectable Cryptosporidium, the letter said.

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