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Canada Deaths May Have Parasite Link

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Saskatchewan — Three deaths in the past month may be linked to a parasite in the water supply of a western Canadian town, officials said Friday.

The 14,000 residents of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, have been under an order to purify water through boiling since April 27 because of cryptosporidium detected in the water supply.

Five people have been hospitalized in stable condition, one of them with confirmed cryptosporidium contamination, said Dr. Gerharde Benade, the local medical health officer. More than 100 other people have complained of diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

Cryptosporidium is a hard-shelled microbe usually found in livestock that can cause flu-like symptoms ranging from diarrhea to fevers in humans.

It can be fatal among people with weak immune systems, such as cancer and AIDS sufferers.

The three deaths in North Battleford suspected of being linked to cryptosporidium involved people with immune-system deficiencies, Saskatchewan health officials said.

In 1993, nearly 100 people died during an outbreak in the water supply in Milwaukee. Almost all were AIDS sufferers or others with weakened immune systems.

Public works manager Randy Strelioff said North Battleford’s sewage plant was upstream on the Saskatchewan River from the water treatment facility.

“That’s always been a concern to us,” Strelioff said. “It stands to reason that it has some influence on that water plant.”

Last year, an outbreak of E. coli bacteria in the water supply of Walkerton, Ontario, killed seven people and sickened 2,300.

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