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Parasite Suspected in Death of 6-Year-Old Richardson Girl

August 1, 2008

By Jeff Mosier and Holly Yan, The Dallas Morning News

Aug. 1–The Dallas County medical examiner’s office is investigating whether the death of a 6-year-old girl is related to the parasitic infection cryptosporidiosis.

Rosemary Stagaman of Richardson died Monday at Medical City Dallas Hospital.

The disease can be spread through contaminated water, including swimming pools. The girl’s father said that she did swim but that he did not know what led to her death.

Jacqueline M. Bell, a spokeswoman for Dallas County Health and Human Services, said she could not confirm whether the girl died from cryptosporidiosis.

But she said 41 cases of crypto-related illness have been reported in Dallas County since June.

“The normal rate is eight to 10 a month in the summer,” Ms. Bell said. “The summer is usually the peak time, with the increase in water activities.”

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis linked to Burger’s Lake in Fort Worth has grown to 67, Tarrant County Public Health officials said Thursday.

County officials said previously that they had received hundreds of calls from customers of the private swimming hole who had symptoms. Tarrant County had 14 reported cases of cryptosporidiosis before this outbreak started in June.

Countywide, there were six reported cases each in 2006 and 2007. Health officials said they couldn’t provide numbers from earlier years.

There have been no fatalities linked to this outbreak in Tarrant County.

Two Dallas city spraygrounds were temporarily closed last week after at least one child tested positive for cryptosporidiosis and others became ill with similar symptoms, which include diarrhea, stomach aches, vomiting and dehydration.

Burger’s Lake reopened Sunday after the water was hyperchlorinated to kill the waterborne parasite.

Dallas officials said they would hyperchlorinate the water at all 28 of its swim and spray facilities weekly for the rest of the summer. Officials with the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, which hasn’t been linked to any of the infections, said they would hyperchlorinate their pools this week.

Also on Thursday, Hawaiian Falls Adventure Park in Garland was closed briefly after a reported case of cryptosporidiosis. All of the park’s pools and water features were treated with chlorine.

Frisco was scheduled to start super-chlorinating its municipal pools on Thursday evening. Pools will remain closed today.

The treatments are precautionary, city officials said, and Frisco has no confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis. Frisco crews have been testing the pool water hourly and requiring babies to wear swim diapers.

Frisco’s Municipal Outdoor Pool and the indoor and outdoor pools at the Athletic Center will reopen Saturday when chemical levels return to safe ranges. The city’s two spray parks are not affected because they use noncirculating fresh water that drains directly off the spray pads. “The Zone” inside the city’s athletic center will close from 4 to 9 p.m. today to accommodate a birthday party originally planned for the center’s outdoor water park.

Cryptosporidium is resistant to chlorine at levels found in swimming pools. However the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that high levels of the chemical will kill the protozoa, which is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease.

Staff writers Elizabeth Langton and Bruce Tomaso and WFAA-TV (Channel 8) contributed to this report.

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