Kansas: Health Officials Search for Source of Parasite Outbreak

Officials in Lawrence, Kan., are assuring residents the city water supply is safe, but they still have not determined the source of a cryptosporidium outbreak. There have been 23 confirmed cases since the first was reported Aug. 22, and health officials believe there probably will be more. The diarrhea-causing parasite can be fatal to people with weakened immune systems, such as the young, the elderly, and people with HIV. More than two-thirds of those who contract cryptosporidiosis are children. As part of their investigation, health officials visited two day-care centers, finding a case at one. Students at four Lawrence elementary schools last week took home questionnaires designed to determine the extent and source of the epidemic. More than 600 responses were returned over the weekend. "We are working as hard as we can and we hope to have some results [on how far the parasite has spread] in the next few days," said Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, the Kansas state epidemiologist.