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Dozens Ill in Secondary Milwaukee Water Parasite Outbreak

May 18, 1993

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Dozens of people have become ill as a result of a secondary, person-to- person spread of a parasite that got into the water supply and killed at least one person and sickened thousands, officials said.

Nine people who died since March 15 were infected by the parasite, but only one of the deaths was directly linked to the parasite, officials said.

Fifty new cases of diarrheal illness have been reported to the city Health Department since May 1. Twenty of the cases were reported Friday, epidemiologist Kathleen Fessler said Monday.

″My general feeling is that some secondary transmission is occurring,″ state epidemiologist Jeffrey Davis said.

The organism can remain in the body for more than 50 days and can be passed to others if those infected do not wash their hands thoroughly, Davis said.

Officials blame water treatment failures at a now-closed water purification plant for allowing the parasite cryptosporidium into the water supply, which serves 800,000 people in Milwaukee and 10 suburbs. Residents were warned to boil drinking water for a week in early April.

More than 700 cases of infection were confirmed and officials projected the total number in the tens of thousands.

Health officials are investigating clusters of secondary transmission, including 17 people who swam at a hotel pool in Oshkosh, about 75 miles north of Milwaukee, who have the illness, Davis said.

A survey is under way to determine the magnitude of the original outbreak and any secondary transmission. Hospital emergency rooms, nursing homes and day-care centers are being checks for symptoms, Davis said.

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