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Regional Public Health and the City Councils of Wellington and Porirua are reminding people not to swim for at least two weeks following an illness with diarrhoea and tummy upset. This follows a high number of cryptosporidium illness being reported in the Wellington region over recent weeks.
“Many people are not aware that swimming too soon after being sick with diarrhoea is a risk for passing infection onto other pool users” says Dr Jill McKenzie Medical Officer of Health. “People can still pass bugs like cryptosporidium onto others for many days after no longer feeling ill.”
Swimming pools have signage reminding people not to swim after being sick and to shower before entering the pool. The highest number of cases has been in the under 5 years age group and it is important to ensure tight fitting togs are worn by this group.
Although modern treatment systems can remove the bug, people may come into contact with the bug before it is removed by filters. Pools in the region have been alerted to the increased number of cryptosporidium cases in the community.
Around half of the recent cases reported to Regional Public Health have had contact with swimming pools around the region, but particularly Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre at Kilbirnie and the Arena Aquatic Centre at Porirua. Regional Public Health is working with pool managers to ensure good systems are in place to reduce the risk of spread.
Cryptosporidium is a parasite which lives in the intestines of people, birds and animals. It produces cysts (eggs) that can survive in the environment for a long time. When a person, bird or animal is infected they pass out the cysts in their faeces.
Cryptosporidium is most often spread by hands contaminated with faeces during toilet use or nappy changing. From hands it can spread to surfaces, toys, food and water. It also spreads in shared water such as swimming pools. When the cysts are swallowed the person then becomes infected.
Symptoms include large amounts of watery diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Lack of appetite, weight loss, fever, nausea and vomiting sometimes occur. People with weak immune systems, particularly those with HIV, can have severe and life threatening illness. The illness is managed by ensuring good fluid intake with improvement in 2-4 days, although symptoms can last up to two weeks. If symptoms persist a doctor can arrange for testing to confirm the cause of the illness.
The best way to prevent cryptosporidiosis infection is to always practice good hand washing and drying after using the toilet, changing nappies and before preparing or eating food. And remember not to share bugs by avoiding swimming pools while sick and for two weeks after symptoms stop.
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For enquires Richard MacLean Barbara Bercic
Kathie McCarten Wellington City Council Porirua City Council
Regional Public Health Phone (04) 801 3578 Phone (04) 237 2555, 0275-303-381
Phone (04) 570 9002