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Pinellas health officials alerting, correcting public

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The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County is warning residents of a pair of infectious diseases while also busting some misguided myths.

Reports of two diseases — Cryptosporidiosis and Vibrio vulnificus — have spiked either locally or regionally in the last month, resulting in public notifications from the department.

The latter of the two, however, received increased attention that public health officials referred to as “myth-information” in a Monday press release.

Multiple media reports over the past two weeks have described Vibrio as a “flesh-eating bacteria” that has been affecting beachgoers who enter the Gulf of Mexico’s warm, summertime waters.

While it’s true that Vibrio numbers naturally increase the warmer saltwater gets, “flesh-eating” is incorrect, the press release states.

None of Florida’s 13 Vibrio cases in 2014 have been reported in Pinellas County as of Aug. 2. The health department also notes that, based on millions of beach visitors each year throughout the state, the likelihood of contracting Vibrio is “extremely low.”

Health officials advise beachgoers who enter the water to check for open wounds as a way to reduce the risk of possible infection. Vibrio enters the body through open wounds, which may lead to a breakdown and ulceration of the skin when exposed.

Most people exposed to Vibrio may not have any severe symptoms, but those with chronic liver disease are at increased risk.

Health officials issued a warning last week on Cryptosporidiosis.

Crypto, as it is more commonly known, is also a water-bourne disease but not by salt water like Vibrio. The disease spreads easily in households, child-care settings and through swimming in contaminated pools or hot tubs.

Crypto is a parasitic disease that can cause loose, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and slight fever, the press release states.

As of last week, DOH-Pinellas has confirmed 58 cases of Crypto, and more than half of the cases have affected people younger than 18.

Crypto, the release states, is “often spread by hands contaminated with feces during toilet use or diaper-changing. From the hands, it can spread to surfaces, toys and food. It also spreads easily in water, including chlorinated swimming pools. When the cysts are swallowed, the person becomes infected.”

To help prevent Crypto, DOH-Pinellas advises residents to practice proper hand hygiene before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, before and after tending to someone who is ill with diarrhea, and after changing diapers.

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