Most notably, SEUDHD has asked managers to restrict children under the age of five from swimming until the outbreak has subsided. Other recommended actions include weekly hyper-chlorination of pools, maintaining a minimum level of chlorination at all times and posting informational materials at every pool.
Over the past month, many counties have seen dramatic increases in cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes long-lasting, often debilitating diarrhea. In a normal year, Utah generally sees about 30 cases throughout the state. This year, the state has confirmed over 600 cases and the numbers keep climbing.
Health officials are also calling on the public to do its part by not taking children under the age of five, or anybody in diapers, to swimming pools. Child care centers are also being asked to avoid recreational water activities and will be instructed in how to prevent child-to-child transmission of the parasite.
“The public must be a proactive partner in helping to stop this outbreak,” said Dr. David Sundwall, Utah Department of Health Director. “If the cases of cryptosporidium don’t slow down within the next two weeks, we may be forced to consider additional restrictions, such as closing public pools.”
Although cryptosporidium can infect anyone, some groups are more likely to develop more serious illness.
• Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to the dehydration resulting from diarrhea and should drink plenty of fluids while ill.
• Anyone with a severely weakened immune system is at risk for more serious disease and should refrain from swimming until the outbreak is over. The symptoms will be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of persons with weakened immune systems include those with HIV/AIDS; cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs; and those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system.
“The aggressive actions are specific for the cryptosporidium outbreak”, said Cunningham.
Cunningham reports the following recommendations, along with good hand washing, are the best way to protect yourself and your family from most waterborne illnesses during a normal swimming season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has six suggestions to help you stay safe.
• Don’t swim when you have diarrhea, and for two weeks after the disease has cleared.
• Don’t swallow the pool water.
• Take a shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
• Take the kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers often.
• Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside.
• Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming.
For more information about cryptosporidium contact SEUDHD at 435-637-3671 or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.