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Residents of the Northern Territory are being urged to exercise careful hygiene and food safety practices, following a notable rise in the number of cases of the stomach bug Cryptosporidium in recent weeks.
Director of the Centre for Disease Control, Dr Vicki Krause, said 27 cases were reported in December 2011, with a further eight cases so far this month.
'We've seen twice the expected gastroenteritis cases caused by the Cryptosporidium parasite,' Dr Krause said.
'The current hot and humid weather is providing the perfect conditions for the bug to thrive and we are expecting to see more cases.'
Dr Krause explained that common symptoms are watery diarrhoea and stomach cramps, which may last for a few days but can continue for several weeks.
'Cryptosporidiosis, or "crypto", is a disease caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium parvum. It can be spread by ingesting food or water that has been contaminated by people infected by the parasite,' she said.
'The most severe infections usually occur in people who have weakened immune systems, including the elderly, small children, people on chemotherapy and people with chronic diseases.'
Dr Krause warned that people can pass on the parasitic infection up to two weeks after their diarrhoea and stomach cramps have ceased.
'It's important that infected people stay away from public pools for a fortnight after they recover from the illness and don't prepare or handle food or drinks that will be consumed by others,' she said.
'Children who attend childcare facilities are at greater risk of infection as the disease can be spread when children share toys or food that has been contaminated, or swallow contaminated pool water.
'It is important that children with diarrhoea don't attend childcare or school until they have gone 24 hours without a loose bowel movement.'