NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Public needs to help keep county’s swimming pools free from contamination by parasites

Allen County residents need to be alert to a nationwide outbreak of intestinal illnesses caused by a parasite that can infect people in swimming pools, splash pads, water playgrounds, hot tubs and spas.

While Allen County is not seeing any significant increases in cases of the hard-to-kill cryptosporidium parasite so far this year, health officials in Indianapolis Monday confirmed 18 cases in Marion County — 10 more than at this time last year.

News-Sentinel.com urges those who frequent public recreational water sites in our county to demonstrate caution and responsibility while there.

The parasite, called “crypto” for short, is spread through the feces of infected humans or animals and can be found in water, food, soil or on surfaces or dirty hands that have been contaminated. It can survive as long as 10 days in chlorinated swimming pool water.

People infected with the parasite experience diarrhea and other possible symptoms, such as stomach cramps or pain, dehydration and nausea.

Marion County’s announcement of increased cases of cryptosporidiosis came just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that incidences of the crypto parasite have increased across the U.S. by an average of 13 percent each year from 2009-2017.

The Allen County Board of Health had earlier reported that there were 500 outbreaks of disease linked to public pools and other such venues from 2000-2014, most caused by crypto or the bacteria Legionella or Pseudomonas.

During 2001-2010, according to the CDC, crypto was the leading cause of waterborne disease outbreaks in the U.S. linked to recreational water. The parasite is found in every region of the U.S. and throughout the world.

The Allen County Board of Health told News-Sentinel.com there were 22 reported cases of crypto in Allen County last year, which was an increase from 13 in 2017. But it said there have been only six cases so far this year, which, it says, is not a significant increase from the five at this time in 2018.

The board of health announced in May that pool operators and health inspectors need the public’s help in ensuring pools, spas and splash pads stay clean and germ-free throughout the season. You can check the latest public pool, hot tub/spa, and water playground inspections online at http://allencountyhealthinspector.acfw.net/.

Meanwhile, the Allen County Board of Health has offered guidelines to prevent the spread of the parasites:

* Don’t swim or let children swim if sick with diarrhea.

* Rinse off in the shower before getting in the water. Rinsing off for just one minute removes most of the dirt or anything else on your body that could contaminate the water.

* And when someone at the pool brags that they just urinated in the water because everybody else does it and it doesn’t hurt anything, remind them that is part of the problem. Children should be taught to take bathroom breaks, not to pee or poop in the pool. That can contribute to the spread of these parasites.

Adults should both monitor their children and set an example in helping maintain sanitary conditions in public places. Failure to do so can result in a very unpleasant experience.

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