Cryptosporidium: What you need to know

Cryptosporidium life cycle

Wyoming health officials reported this week that 54 people so far this year have been infected with Cryptosporidium – a hard-shelled microscopic parasite. It is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than half of this year’s cases have come from Campbell County and linked more specifically to Keyhole Reservoir about 60 miles away, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

But there’s no reason to panic, says Dr. Mark Dowell, an infectious disease doctor at Wyoming Medical Center and the Natrona County health officer.

“This is not new, this is stuff we’ve seen before,” he said. “I think it’s a fluke. I think some years there are just more parasites in a particular body of water. It’s no different than our West Nile cases. Some years there are more than others.”

Cryptosporidium is associated with animal feces. It may wash from the soil to ponds and streams. It is resistant to chlorine so it is sometimes found in municipal swimming pools and may also be found in daycares.

Cryptosporidiosis, or commonly called Crypto, can affect anyone, from the very young to very old. But people with a normal immune system will get over it in a week or two, Dowell said.

Here’s what you need to know:


Symptoms can mimic the flu or other gastrointestinal illnesses. They include:

— diarrhea

— nausea

— vomiting

— loss of appetite


Antibiotics do not work against Cryptosporidium infections. Instead, they are treated symptomatically, Dowell said. That typically means fluids, over-the-counter medicines such as Immodium and Pepto-Bismol, and time. Most cases will pass from the system within a week or two.

If you experience the above symptoms and you are particularly uncomfortable, call your doctor. You might also be suffering from something more serious such as a salmonella infection or an unrelated gastrointestinal issue.

“Don’t panic because you have had two days of diarrhea just because of this outbreak,” Dowell said.


Cryptosporidium is found in the environment – and probably in whatever reservoir you like to frequent. Some years, there just happens to be a higher concentration of it, for whatever reason, Dowell said.

You may be able to avoid an infection if you:

Wash your hands frequently: Because it is transmitted fecal-orally – from feces to mouth – it is important to wash your hands with soap and water before touching your mouth. So don’t climb out of your favorite pond and then grab your picnic sandwich. Wash your hands before eating.

“It’s common sense, but people don’t always think about that,” Dowell said.

Close your mouth: When swimming, try to limit the amount of water you swallow.

“People tend, whether they admit it or not, to let water go into their mouths. That’s all it takes, and that’s often how you get it,” Dowell said.

Take a shower: Rinse the pool, pond or reservoir water off your skin as soon as you are able.

Relax: The best advice Dowell can give is to just go ahead and go swimming. Cryptosporidium was there before this outbreak and will be there when it passes.

“You don’t close a reservoir for this,” Dowell said. “Just follow the typical, common sense things such as hand washing and keeping your mouth shut and I think it’s perfectly OK to swim there. I would.”

Dr. Mark Dowell
Dr. Mark Dowell

Dr. Mark Dowell is an infectious disease specialist with Wyoming Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Infectious Diseases, 1450 E. A St. He is also the Natrona County health officer and is board certified in infectious disease and internal medicine. Reach his office at (307) 234-8700.

Safe Communities and Casper police host first wet lab for drinking and driving awareness

wet lab 3
Casper Mayor Kenyne Schlager gets a field-sobriety test from Casper police officer Scott Jones to check how one drink affected her eye coordination.

Normally, it’s new officers who are trained at a “wet lab” – a monitored drinking period to discern the effects of alcohol on one’s body. But last month, it was Casper Mayor Kenyne Schlager, Rodeo Rick Darcy from Town Square Media and Jeff Goetz of the Wyoming Department of Transportation who drank cocktails for the sake of alcohol awareness.

Wyoming Medical Center Safe Communities and Casper Police Department hosted the first wet lab in Casper on Aug. 29. David Reed from Poplar Wine and Spirits provided the alcohol.

People often feel the effects of alcohol long before reaching the legal driving limit of .08 blood alcohol content (BAC). After each drink, Schlager, Darcy and Goetz underwent field sobriety tests to determine how their motor skills responded to the alcohol. With a .03 BAC, well below the legal limit, Schlager told the Casper Star-Tribune that she felt too wobbly to drive.

Read reporter Kelly Byer’s article on the wet lab here. Scroll through the rest of the photos for more scenes from the event. Wyoming had 37 alcohol-related fatal accidents in 2012. With events like the wet lab, Safe Communities works to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving and to reduce the number of dead on Wyoming roads.

Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Goetz and Rick Darcy sample their drinks.
Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Goetz and Rick Darcy sample their drinks.
Rick Darcy tries to walk the line in a field sobriety test.
Rick Darcy tries to walk the line in a field sobriety test.
wet lab2
Casper police officer administers a breathalyzer on Jeff Goetz.



Safe Communities is building a safer Casper

In August, Safe Communities and Safe Kids of Central Wyoming had two great community outings  to spread the word about safety in cars. At Riverfest on Aug. 24, we battled good ole Casper wind, but talked safety with many kids who stopped at our Safe Kids booth. At Casper College’s Back to School barbecue on Aug. 25, kids used the Safe Communities driving simulator to learn first-hand the dangers of texting and driving.

* Riverfest 2013: With more than 3,000 people attending, Safe Kids made many contacts with Casper children. Kids who stopped at our booth painted a safety sheet or colored an activity book. We passed out bags filled with safety activities and educational materials.

Safe Communities focused on drinking and driving, texting and driving and wearing seatbelts. People were surprised at how few drinks they can before they register a BAC (blood alcohol concentration). Check out the poster below to see how many drinks it takes you to be over the legal driving limit.

corrected poster

texting suburban
In 2009, a girl was driving down Casper Mountain Road in this suburban. She was reading a text when she rolled the vehicle – luckily she was wearing her seatbelt and survived. Safe Kids, Safe Communities and the Wyoming Department of Transportation displayed the Suburban at the Back to School Bash to remind drivers that texting can wait.

* Back to School Bash: More than 700 students and family attended Casper College’s annual event. Safe Kids, Safe Communities and the Wyoming Department of Transportation displayed a car crashed in a 2009 texting incident. The visual, with the details of the crash, made an impact on students.  Megan Capellas from AT&T gave out pledges for students to sign to not text and drive along with information.

Wyoming Highway Patrol helped with impaired goggles for students to “walk the line” interactive participation to show how drinking impairs your vision.  The students flocked to participate in this and were surprised how bad they actually did.  Safe Communities provided the driving simulator to let students experience driving while texting.  This simulator goes all the way from crashing, being picked up by police, court and even victims’ families talking with you.  The students loved this interaction as a reminder not to text and drive as it is against the law in Wyoming.

CC back to school bash
The Wyoming Highway Patrol uses special goggles to show students how hard it is to walk a straight line if you are impaired. This was a great hands-on activity that everyone enjoyed.

Reaching this age group of students and making a difference in their lives is very touching.  I’m very proud to be a part of Safe Communities and Safe Kids to provide such great opportunities to our community.

Wyoming Medical Center is the lead agency for Safe Communities and Safe Kids of Central Wyoming. For more information on their services, visit their page on our website.

Concussion Monday: Neurologist Dr. David Wheeler talks symptoms and treatments

You don’t have to lose consciousness to suffer a concussion.

By definition, a concussion is any impact injury to the brain that causes a disruption in normal neurologic function.  That disruption could include drowsiness, slurred speech or any number of other symptoms – some of which could last several days.

Concussion, especially repeated concussions no matter how minor, can have serious long term consequences. For this reason, The Pulse is participating in  #ConcussionMonday, an initiative started by Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center to raise awareness about concussion and traumatic brain injury on social media.

For our second post, we spoke with Dr. David Wheeler, neurologist with Wyoming Medical Center and Wyoming Neurologic Associaties. Watch the video to learn about the signs and symptoms of concussion and what parents should do if their children experience one.

To get a coach’s pocket-guide for signs and symptoms, check out our first post: Concussion Monday: A high school coach’s guide to recognizing concussions. To join the conversation, follow #ConcussionMonday on Twitter for concussion facts, prevention and inspiration from patient success stories.