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Finland tries to tackle Cryptosporidium increase

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Health authorities in Finland have noted an increase in Cryptosporidium infections. Despite the coronavirus pandemic restrictions and reduced travel, there were 571 cryptosporidiosis cases in 2020, almost 30 times as high as the figure in 2010.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) have investigated the sources of infections through questionnaires and laboratory work. Cryptosporidium parvum was the most common species of the parasite in patient samples.

THL epidemiologist Ruska Rimhanen-Finne said Cryptosporidium parvum has increased in cattle in recent years in the country. Most of the infected people had been in contact with farm animals that had diarrhea. They also reported other family members felt unwell at the same time.

Attempts to reduce Cryptosporidium
The KRYPTO project, launched in spring 2019 and ongoing until 2022, investigated causes of the increase in cryptosporidiosis in humans and calves. It has been shown that those infected with Cryptosporidium parvum had been in more frequent contact with cattle than control respondents.

A thesis found farms have practices that may increase the risk of transmission of cryptosporidiosis. The extent of the risks posed by the different practices is not yet known.

The work investigated which practices and risk factors may contribute to the spread of Cryptosporidium from farms to the environment and surrounding waterways. It included a survey of cattle farmers with 90 responses and revealed people’s awareness of cryptosporidiosis and how to prevent infection needs to be increased.

Risk factors included the storage of manure near surface water bodies, application of manure during wet seasons and on pastures near waterways.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite which, if ingested, can cause cryptosporidiosis. Transmission occurs mainly through contact with contaminated water but can be via food or exposure to infected animals or water contaminated by the feces of infected animals.

The main symptom is watery diarrhea, which can range from mild to severe. It is often accompanied by stomach pain, nausea or vomiting, fever and sometimes dehydration and weight loss. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after infection and last one to two weeks.

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