The Largest U.S. Cryptosporidium Outbreak Occurred 21 Years Ago this Month
This April marks the 21st anniversary of the largest waterborne disease outbreak in U.S. history. Hundreds of thousands of people in the Milwaukee area developed severe, uncontrollable diarrhea that caused bottled water and anti-diarrheal medication shortages. Unprecedented absenteeism disrupted commerce throughout the city leaving schools and workplaces largely empty. Surveys conducted at the time indicated that over 403,000 people in the five-county Milwaukee metropolitan area were sickened with watery, persistent diarrhea between late March and early April of 1993. There were 69 deaths, including several children, all who were immunocompromised in the Milwaukee area.
Initially, the cause was unknown. However, due to the extraordinarily high numbers of people who were getting ill in the area, epidemiologists suspected the illness was associated with drinking water. Originally, the parasite was discovered in a stool sample. Later on, the presence of Cryptosporidium oocysts was confirmed in water samples following testing conducted at the cities’ water plants.
Cryptosporidium infections are transmitted fecal-orally worldwide with the prevalence higher in developing countries. Several outbreaks that have been identified were associated with public drinking water supplies, recreational water (waterslides, swimming pools and lakes) and the consumption of contaminated beverages. Children under the age of two, animal handlers, men who have sex with men, health care and day care workers are particularly prone to infection.
“This outbreak changed the way water treatment plants monitor for pathogens by prompting the EPA to establish Cryptosporidium regulations on all privately held and municipal water treatment plants throughout the U.S.,” explains Diane Miskowski, MPH, Business Development Manager at EMSL Analytical, Inc. “These regulations are being enforced this year, and EMSL is one of the few EPA certified laboratories in North America that can test for Cryptosporidium.”
About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider of environmental, food, pharmaceutical, and materials testing services and products to professionals and the general public. The company has an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulatory agencies.
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- Contact Information
- Joe Frasca
- Senior Vice President of Marketing
- EMSL Analytical, Inc.
- (1) (856) 303-2503
- Contact via E-mail
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