More than 100 people have been sickened in a giant cryptosporidiosis outbreak linked to swimming pools in Ohio, state health officials warned.
Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic Cryptosporidium parasites, which can live in the intestines of humans and animals and is transmitted in the stool of an infected person or animal. Both the disease and the parasite are commonly known as “Crypto.”
Because they are armored by an outer shell cryptosporidium parasites can live in a chlorinated pool for more than 10 days.
People swimming in a contaminated pool can easily become sickened by ingesting the water. Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis generally begin two to 10 days after becoming infected with the parasite and include diarrhea, stomach pain or cramps, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss. These symptoms can last up to two weeks.
Public health officials in Columbus said there have been 107 cryptosporidiosis cases reported this summer in just Columbus, Franklin County, and Delaware County – more than the total number of cases reported statewide during the previous three years combined. Many more cases likely go unreported.
Columbus Public Health officials say that any public swimming facility linked to Cryptosporidiosis illnesses may be asked to hyperchlorinate the pool to kill off the chlorine-resistant parasite. This is accomplished by “shocking” the pool water with excessive amounts of chlorine — a treatment that may be needed once per week to keep contamination levels down.
Most of the patients diagnosed with the illness had visited different recreational swimming sites several times in the three counties, making it difficult for public health officials to identify a source.
Prevention is the best defense against Crypto. Because the illness is spread through human feces, Columbus health officials urge the public not to swim if they have diarrhea and to avoid swimming for two weeks after recovery.
Other preventive measures include bathing or showering before swimming in public pools, having children take frequent bathroom breaks, carefully monitoring babies and young children in pools, changing baby diapers in the bathroom instead of pools, and not eating in the pool premises.