A record number of Iowans became ill after visiting public swimming pools last summer and state health officials are hoping to avoid a similar situation this year. Mike Magnant leads state pool inspections for the Iowa Department of Public Health. He says there were hundreds of cases of cryptosporidiosis or crypto in 2007.
Magnant says there were more than 600 confirmed cases of crypto in Iowa last year, with 400 other people linked to those cases. "That’s basically four times what we’ve had in any previous year," Magnant said. Crypto is a disease caused by a parasite that usually results in stomach sickness and diarrhea. Magnant says it’s commonly spread by kids that are sick – who should not be swimming.
"Our big message here is that if you’re sick or if you have sick kid, particularly with stomach illness or diarrhea, just don’t come to the pool because you could make a lot of other people sick," Magnant said. He’s also urging swimmers to take a shower before getting in a public pool. Parents or caretakers are asked to check the swim diapers of toddlers often and thoroughly wash hands – and the child – after changing diapers.
Magnant says there’s no way to tell, at least visually, if a pool is contaminated with cyrpto. "The chlorine does not do a particularly good job of inactivating this organism. So, any individual that has an accident in the pool – that happens to be infected – can, in fact, infect the whole pool and put at a lot of other people risk," Magnant said. The state, with help from local health departments, inspects swimming pools, wading pools and spas at more than 1,200 locations in Iowa.