msnbc.com news services
updated 8/19/2005 4:17:31 PM ET 2005-08-19T20:17:31

Gastrointestinal illness possibly stemming from a state-run water playground in the Seneca Lake State Park has sickened more than 1,700 people, mostly children and teenagers, the New York Health Department said Friday.

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Seneca Lake Park’s Sprayground, which has water jets shooting up from a hardtop surface, was closed after tests showed the tank system that feeds the water jets was contaminated with a common waterborne disease called cryptosporidiosis.

The agency reports that 1,738 cases of illness have been reported in 20 counties.

Commonly known as crypto, the disease is highly contagious and can cause diarrhea, nausea and fever for several weeks. The parasite may be found in drinking water and recreational water throughout the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms generally begin 2 to 10 days (average 7 days) after becoming infected. They usually go away without treatment in healthy individuals.

So far, health officials have confirmed 13 cases among those who have reported getting ill after visiting the park since June.

No deaths have been associated with the outbreak, and many of the people who contracted the illness have already recovered, Kenny said.

The state health commissioner urged people to minimize their chances of acquiring or further spreading the illness by thoroughly washing their hands after using the toilet, changing diapers or coming into contact with fecal material in any way. Also, swimmers should avoid swallowing water, especially in lakes, ponds or rivers.

Individuals who are experiencing gastrointestinal illness should not swim while they are sick and for two weeks after their symptoms subside.

Additional test results of water samples from the Seneca Lake State Park beach showed no problems with the water quality and the beach remains open. The water park has been closed for the rest of the 2005 season.

The Sprayground averages more than a thousand visitors a day in August. It is in the Finger Lakes region, about 45 miles southwest of Syracuse, N.Y.

The water is monitored several times a day for proper chlorine levels and tested monthly for bacteria like E. coli, said Wendy Gibson, spokeswoman for the N.Y. state parks department.

However, cryptosporidium is resistant to chlorine and can live for days in chlorine-treated water, according to the CDC.

The Health Department at first temporarily shut down the Sprayground on Tuesday after receiving more than 100 reported cases of illness dating to early July.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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