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Urgent public health message: Reduce the risk of diarrhoea this summer

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Gold Coast Health’s Public Health Unit has detected a higher than usual number of diarrhoea infections, which they have linked to swimming pools.

Increases in Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) cases are usually associated with warmer weather due to increases in pool use for recreation and learn-to-swim classes. 

A recent review of Crypto pre-summer data has shown higher than usual levels of notifications for this time of year.

The Public Health Unit is encouraging swimmers to take steps to reduce their risk of getting infections while using swimming pools this summer.

A key message to note is that a person (adults and children) must not swim if they currently have diarrhoea and must not swim for 14 days after it has stopped.

The Public Health Unit is also advising pool operators on the Gold Coast on ways to reduce the incidence of Crypto this summer.

What is Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto)?

  • Crypto is an intestinal infection that leads to diarrhoea and vomiting caused by a parasite Cryptosporidium parvum. The infectious agent of Crypto is called an oocyst.
  • Symptoms usually appear 1-12 days after ingestion of oocysts from swallowing infected water or food or not washing hands after going to the toilet or changing nappies.
  • Crypto can last for 1-2 weeks in healthy people.  For those with weak immune systems the symptoms can last longer and be very serious or even life threatening.
  • The oocysts are shed in faeces at the start of symptoms and can continue to be excreted for up to two weeks after the diarrhoea has stopped.
  • Pool water can become infected with Crypto when an infected person excretes the oocysts into the water.  Research shows infants who are not toilet trained are most likely to spread  oocysts in pools if they have been infected, resulting in children’s learn-to-swim school pools becoming a higher risk for spreading oocysts to other people in the community.
  • Oocysts can survive in swimming pools because they are resistant to standard chlorine levels and, being very small in size, may not be filtered out by the pool filter. It requires a ‘shock dose’ level of chlorine over a long period of time to inactivate the Crypto oocysts so it can no longer infect people.

Visit Queensland Health for more information and what can pool operators do to reduce the introduction of Crypto.

Last updated 20 Dec 2016