With schools dismissing for summer and summer activities underway, the Iowa Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans to be aware of illnesses and health concerns that are typically associated with warmer weather. Increased outdoor activities mean increased potential for exposure to ticks, waterborne illnesses like Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) and other diseases. "Everyone is eager to get outdoors," said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "Being aware of spring and summer health concerns is important, especially when simple precautions can help prevent illnesses."
Lyme disease is a yearly concern in the Midwest, where cases of the tick-borne illness have been steadily increasing over the past decade. There were 105 cases of Lyme disease reported to IDPH in 2008; four cases have been reported so far in 2009. Most cases occur in northeast Iowa. Basic prevention measures against Lyme disease include wearing light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants, tucked into socks. Light colored clothing makes it easier to spot ticks. When outdoors, use an insect repellant especially made for ticks (for example, one containing DEET).
The incidence of Crypto typically begins to rise in late May or early June, about the time people start using "kiddie pools," swimming pools and beaches. The peak usually occurs in July or August. Crypto is an illness caused by a parasite that is typically found in the feces of an infected person or animal. It is spread by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated, such as swallowing contaminated pool water. Crypto causes cramps and severe, watery diarrhea.
To prevent the spread of Crypto, always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food or eating, after using the toilet or changing diapers, and after contact with animals. Avoid swallowing recreational water from lakes, streams and swimming pools. People ill with Crypto should not use any recreational water, including "kiddie" pools, swimming pools, or beaches, while having symptoms, and for at least two weeks after their diarrhea ends (since the illness can still spread for a time after recovery).
While a trip to the petting zoo or other event where adults and children interact directly with animals can be fun and educational, some animals could pass illnesses to people, so simple precautions should be taken. Be sure to wash your hands and especially young children's hands well with soap and water after contact with animals, animal pens or animal feces. Do not eat, drink, or put things in your mouth (including baby bottles and pacifiers) in animal areas. Older adults, pregnant women, and young children should be extra careful around animals.
Your local Public Health Department is located at 1000 South Second Street in Cherokee. If you have any questions about services or programs at Public Health, please contact Janice Carlson, BSN, RN, FNP, ARNP at Cherokee Regional Medical Center Public Health Department by calling (712) 225-6459.