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Pool managers need to be aware of waterborne bugs through summer
A sharp rise in the number of cryptosporidiosis cases in NSW during November has prompted health officials to warn of the increased danger of cryptosporidiosis in swimming pools during the summer months.
NSW Health Director of Health Protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty recently advised that notifications of cryptosporidiosis more than tripled between October and November, from 41 cases to 131 cases - the largest percentage increase in two years.
As a result, Dr McAnulty warned that people who have had diarrhoea should stay out of public swimming pools for two weeks, stating “if you've had crypto and your symptoms resolve you can still expel them in your faeces and some of that can stick to your skin around the bottom and get washed off in the pool when you're swimming.
"We've seen a sharper increase (in cryptosporidiosis cases in recent) weeks than we've had in recent years and we might be on the upswing of something big, so if we can avoid it getting in swimming pools we can avert a chain outbreak. We're trying to get in first."
Cryptosporidiosis occurs after a person swallows the parasite cryptosporidium. Infection causes watery diarrhoea that can last for weeks. This parasite is very small and hardy, and can survive in chlorinated pool water for many days. Swimming pools can be contaminated by swimmers who have the infection, and swimmers can in turn be infected after swallowing even small amounts of pool water.
Dr McAnulty added that the parasite is so hardy that it can often survive regular chlorine levels in swimming pools and is so small that it can evade filtration systems.
Cases have been notified in the Hunter, New England, southern parts of NSW and north eastern parts of Sydney, though no swimming pools have yet been identified as the source of infection.
Mostly it affects children under the age of five, who are more likely to swallow water while swimming and have lower levels of immunity.
Outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis and the related giardiasis bug are not uncommon through summer and have occurred across Australia in recent years.
There have been a series of high profile faecal incidents in aquatic centres across Australia and New Zealand this year including recent vandalism in Cooma and the activities of the mysterious ‘pool pooper’ in Invercargill through March and April.
State health departments provide advice on dealing with such incidents.
In NSW, health officials have advised people to avoid infection by washing their hands after visiting the toilet, changing nappies or handling animals, to avoid swallowing pool or spa water and to boil untreated water before drinking it while camping or hiking.
NSW Health’s Clean Pools for Healthy Swimming posters and brochures for cryptosporidium prevention are available on the NSW Health’s website.
As Dr McAnulty adds “the most important message in these educational resources is to ensure that people don’t swim if they have had diarrhoea in the past two weeks.”
NSW Health recommends that the Clean Pools for Healthy Swimming brochures are handed out when children are registered for swimming lessons and suggest that it is also good policy for swim schools to allow make-up lessons when a child is sick. This encourages parents to keep their children at home and out of the pool until two weeks after they have had diarrhoea.
The NSW Health Public Swimming Pool and Spa Pool Advisory document (Chapter 8 on the website) provides good advice for pool managers on ways to prevent cryptosporidiosis. Outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis are common. Some simple management strategies such as regular superchlorination of a swimming pool and/or hyperchlorination when a cluster of cases have been linked to your pool, can help protect public health and your business.
Click here for more information.
Click here to view NSW Health’s Clean Pools for Healthy Swimming posters.
22nd December 2015 - SOUTH HEDLAND AQUATIC CENTRE AFFECTED BY ONGOING CLOSURES
15th December 2015 - POLICE STEP UP PATROLS TO PROTECT COOMA’S PUBLIC SWIMMING POOL FROM VANDALS
26th March 2015 - SERIAL DEFECATOR CAUSES WEEKLY CLOSURES OF SOUTHLAND AQUATIC CENTRE
20th December 2014 - STUDY FINDS TOXIC BYPRODUCT FROM URINATING IN SWIMMING POOLS
15th December 2013 - VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT ISSUES SUMMER REMINDER ON HEALTHY SWIMMING POOL HABITS
26th March 2013 - VICTORIA RECORDS FOUR-FOLD INCREASE IN CRYPTOSPORIDIUM IN PUBLIC POOLS
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