Residents who have come into contact with animals should take precautions

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy today warned visitors to the Heaven on Earth Farm in Easton, Northampton County, of an outbreak of Cryptosporidium, an intestinal parasite that can cause severe diarrhea, related to infected manure at the farm.

Cryptosporidium is a parasite that can be found in water, food and soil, as well as on contaminated surfaces or dirty hands,” Secretary Murphy said. “Anyone sickened after visiting or working on the farm since February 14 is advised to contact the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH and to talk to their personal physician. Even residents who may have come into contact with a visitor to the farm should take precautions to prevent the spread of this parasite, mainly through hand-washing and cleaning surfaces.”

The farm received young goats and calves that required frequent bottle feedings, and solicited assistance from the public via Facebook. It is possible that hundreds of people were exposed to infected manure while helping to care for the animals.

The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis, a parasitic infection caused by Cryptosporidium species, is watery diarrhea, which usually begins two to 10 days after becoming infected with the parasite. Symptoms can last on and off for weeks. People with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience symptoms of the disease, which can be severe and can lead to life-threatening illnesses.

To prevent illness, people should thoroughly wash their hands with soap and hot water before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, after changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet, before and after caring for someone who is ill with diarrhea, and after handling animals, particularly young livestock, or cleaning up animal manure.

Persons with symptoms of cryptosporidiosis should be excluded from high-risk settings. These include food service handlers, daycare workers or attendees, and healthcare workers.