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Cryptosporidium: NSW Health warns of swimming pool risk

NSW Health is urging people not to swim for two weeks after having diarrhoea to avoid contaminating pools with the nasty infection cryptosporidiosis, with cases expected to rise over summer.

Dr Jeremy McAnulty, Director Health Protection NSW Health, said people of all ages, particularly parents and carers of young children, should take steps to prevent the spread of the parasitic intestinal infection as more people take the plunge to escape the heat.

Image/CDC

“Cryptosporidiosis is easily spread from person to person in swimming pools, splash parks, interactive fountains, spas or jacuzzis,” Dr McAnulty said.

“We usually see cases increase over summer, and there have been plenty of outbreaks caused by contaminated swimming pools. If an infected person gets into a pool, and another swimmer swallows even a small amount of pool water, they can get infected and will start experiencing diarrhoea a few days later.

“You can also get the infection from drinking water contaminated by animals or handling infected animals – although this is less common.”

Since 1 November 56 cases have been reported to date but Dr McAnulty said this is an underestimation of case numbers as many people with diarrhoea won’t get tested for cryptosporidiosis, which requires a stool test at the doctor.

Symptoms include lots of diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and sometimes fever. There is no specific treatment for the condition and symptoms may last a few weeks.

The Public Health Act was recently amended to expand the maintenance requirements for swimming pools to include splash parks and interactive fountains to help reduce the risk of cryptosporidiosis outbreaks.

“These amendments will help to prevent outbreaks but anyone with symptoms should help protect other swimmers by staying out of pools and splash parks for at least two weeks until the diarrhoea has stopped,” Dr McAnulty said.

The following steps should be taken to avoid contamination of pools and splash parks: