An outbreak of gastroenteritis has been spreading in the municipality of Tarazona, located west of the province of Zaragoza. In the municipality and its surroundings the number of cases of cryptosporidiosis is now close to half a thousand.
More than 450 cases. In recent weeks, cases of gastroenteritis have multiplied in the Aragonese municipality of Tarazona, and have spread to the town of Novallas. According to the latest data, the number of people affected would have already exceeded 450. These are due to an outbreak of Cryptosporidiosis whose origin has been found in the local tap water.
For now, the outbreak does not seem to have spread to other municipalities that also extract water from their taps from the Queiles River and the authorities are searching the riverbed for the stretch where the outbreak originates.
Also alert in bordering areas. As soon as it became known that the origin of the outbreak was in tap water, the municipal authorities asked that it stop being consumed by humans (neither for drinking, nor for cooking, nor for teeth cleaning), although they also explained that other uses such as Home cleaning did not pose a risk.
These restrictions have been extended to the municipalities that also obtain their water from the Queiles even though anomalous cases of gastroenteritis have not been detected. The river rises in the province of Soria and flows into the Ebro at the height of the Navarrese municipality of Tudela.
Cryptosporidium. The culprit is neither a bacteria nor a virus, but a protozoan parasite known as Cryptosporidium. Its transmission occurs through the fecal-oral route, that is, the parasite enters our body through the mouth and its spores are released in excrement.
Cryptosporidium spores make this parasite difficult to eliminate by conventional means such as chlorination. These spores are called oocysts (or oocysts), as they are cells in which the parasite goes through its incubation phase and have a characteristically hard membrane.
Once in our body, these parasites carry out their life cycle in their intestine, occasionally releasing new oocytes that can end up in water or in different types of foods, from fruits and vegetables to unpasteurized milk.
Criptosporidiosis. The symptoms of cryptosporidiosis are typical of gastroenteritis, with intense, watery diarrhea. In addition to causing abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, the symptoms of this infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as fever and fatigue or pain in other parts of the body.
In healthy people, the symptoms do not worsen and subside after a certain time (the period may vary), but immunocompromised people can suffer serious consequences, such as severe diarrhea, gallbladder disease or inflammation of the pancreas.
The largest known outbreak of this infection occurred in the early 1990s, affecting more than 400,000 people in Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and is estimated to have caused the death of just over fifty people, the vast majority of them previously affected. for AIDS. One study observed that in the months following the outbreak the number of deaths associated with this syndrome grew by 19%. Control of this infection has made great progress since 1993.
Searching for the origin. Meanwhile, authorities continue to search for the source of the outbreak. It is unknown at what height of the river it occurred, nor could it be associated with any specific event. The authorities acknowledge that no spill or illegal activity has been detected so far.
Although for now no serious consequences of this outbreak have been detected, the pertinacity of this parasite means that the authorities will have work to solve. During the last hours the number of people affected has been growing, from 444 to 452.
The incubation time of the parasite can also be variable, up to 12 days. Although precautionary measures began to be taken two weeks ago, it cannot be ruled out that the number will grow somewhat more before we begin to see the outbreak subside.
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Image | Willtron / Alae-eddine GATI