A rash of intestinal parasitic illnesses in nearby communities has Douglas County health officials keeping a close eye on local cases.
With more than 60 cases of Cryptosporidiosis (crypto for short) confirmed, the Johnson County Environmental Department is asking pool owners to close their outdoor pools for the summer. The 60 cases are linked to 11 pools in Johnson County.
Johnson County isn’t alone in its skyrocketing numbers of crypto cases. In the Kansas City, Mo., metro area, 100 cases have been reported. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, statewide there has been an 88.5 percent increase from what the median number of cases had been in the past five years.
While numbers of crypto cases tend to peak during late summer, Betsy Betros, pollution control division director with the Johnson County Environmental Department, said these recent reports across the region are unusually high.
Crypto is caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium and can result in diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting. It spreads through fecal matter from people or animals infected with the parasite, consumption of contaminated food or water and by person-to-person or animal-to-animal contact.
The easiest way to track the bacteria is through cases reported by doctors. Testing for it in pools is nearly impossible, Betros said.
It was through medical reports that the agency was able to identify the 11 pools where the disease was transmitted. They also identified several people who visited three or four pools in the area while infected with the parasite.
So far, Douglas County has had one confirmed case of crypto and one probable case. Health officials are examining if those cases have any ties to local swimming pools, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department spokeswoman Lisa Horn said.
The local health department doesn’t have to worry about contamination in the county’s most popular pool, the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center. It closed Aug. 22.
“It’s definitely put us at ease a little bit knowing the outdoor pool is closed, but there are still lots of privately owned pools and several indoor pools in the county,” Horn said. “We are certainly keeping an eye out.”
Horn urged anyone with symptoms of crypto to be tested.
In the letter sent to pool owners in Johnson County, the Johnson County Environmental Department “strongly recommended” to close outdoor pools for the summer and maintain regular chlorination and pH levels for at least 11 days before winterizing the pool. Without any people in the pool, the bacteria will die after 11 days.
Closing pools was listed as the “best option” for owners. Barring that, the agency urged pool owners to super chlorinate the water following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control.
Here are some tips to avoid spreading or becoming infected with crypto:
• Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, after changing a diaper or when caring for someone with diarrhea.
• Do not bring a child to school or day care if they have diarrhea.
• Do not swim with diarrhea and stay out of the pool for two weeks after the diarrhea ends.
• Contact your health department if you develop symptoms of crypto.