Preschoolers at a Lawrence public schools center won't be sculpting Play-Doh or washing baby dolls for about a month.
An employee at East Heights Early Childhood Family Center has tested positive for the parasite giardia, about a month after two children attending the center tested positive.
However, the children's cases do not seem to be related to the adult's case, said Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department nurse Kathy Colson.
Giardia is a parasite that lives in the stomach and intestines and causes diarrhea. It's spread by people who fail to wash their hands -- or to wash them well -- after going to the bathroom or changing diapers.
The health department received the lab report on the adult Monday and notified school officials Wednesday.
East Heights staff have stepped up disinfecting toys, bathrooms and eating areas at the center, 1430 Haskell Ave. They've also suspended children's play with water and Play-Doh.
"We're being extra-more careful," said East Heights principal Cris Anderson.
As with recent outbreaks of cryptosporidium, health officials stressed that proper hygiene could help prevent outbreaks of parasites.
"I know it's getting repetitive, but truly, decent hand-washing ... is the biggest deterrent to spreading a lot of diseases," Colson said.
People also can pick up giardia in swimming pools or by touching animal droppings. Giardia can infect people who drink from seemingly pristine rivers and ponds during camping trips, she said.
"They do the streams, everything looks wonderful and they get sick," Colson said.
The adult, suffering from diarrhea, went to a doctor within the past two weeks.
East Heights staff sent a letter home to families Wednesday, asking that children not come to school if they have diarrhea and emphasizing hand-washing and not sharing silverware.
The letters also tell families the health department can give free testing kits to East Heights students or staff members who have symptoms of giardia.
Such symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps and weight loss.
The health department learned about the two children's illness Oct. 6.
A lab found the giardia after the children went to the health department at the end of September for a routine stool test, Colson said.
The school sent a similar letter to families in October after the health department informed them of the cases.
East Heights offers preschool to children from low-income or at-risk families. It also offers a parenting and literacy program for parents and child care for children while their parents come to East Heights to learn.