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Health officials offer steps to prevent waterborne illness

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As the July Fourth holiday weekend approaches, state health officials issued a reminder Wednesday for people to be aware that germs can be spread through recreational water.

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Prevention can help reduce the likelihood of getting sick after swimming at a pool or beach, said the Minnesota Department of Health.

"Germs on and in swimmers' bodies end up in the water and can make other people sick," said Dr. Kirk Smith, the Health Department's waterborne illness supervisor. "Even healthy swimmers can get sick from recreational water illnesses, but the young, elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk."

Steps you can take to minimize the spread of waterborne diseases include:

- Don't go swimming if you have been ill with diarrhea in the past two weeks.

- Avoid swallowing water or getting water in your mouth.

- Shower before swimming.

- Wash your hands are using the toilet or changing diapers.

- Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.

- Change children's diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside or beachside.

From 2000 to 2008, 20 swimming pool outbreaks and 13 beach outbreaks were identified in Minnesota.

Cryptosporidium, one of the most common sources of waterborne disease, is a chlorine-resistant parasite that can survive and be transmitted even in a pool that's properly maintained. Minnesota had three outbreaks of cryptosporidium last year that were linked to a swimming pool.

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