Clark health, pool officials on the lookout for parasite

Health officials are cautioning swimmers to be aware of a water-based parasite ahead of the start of summer pool and beach season this weekend.

The parasite is called cryptosporidium, and is found in streams, ponds, pools and puddles and wherever there’s standing water.

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Last year about 1,940 cases of cryptosporidium infections — commonly referred to as crypto — were reported in Ohio, up 386 percent from an average of about 400 cases each year from 2012 to 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were 24 crypto-related outbreaks in Ohio last year, and 10 of those outbreaks were associated with aquatic venues, according to the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health.

Outbreaks in Ohio made up almost a third of the 32 outbreaks linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds in the U.S. last year, which was double the national figure from 2014, according to the CDC, which recently issued a nationwide warning about contaminated pool water.

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Two cases have been reported so far in 2017 in Clark County. They weren’t traced to a water source in the area, according to Larry Shaffer, director of environmental health with the Clark County Combined Health District.

Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and cramping, Shaffer said.

One case led the district to the Splash Zone Family Aquatic Center last year. A person diagnosed with crypto visited the pool after they were infected.

“Someone who had it, had been here. They did not contract it here,” said Miste Adams, recreation superintendent and overall supervisor of Splash Zone.

The pool had to be closed for about 24 hours for testing and treatment last year, she said.

Normal chlorine levels don’t kill the parasite, Shaffer said, so the levels have to be raised and constantly checked before a pool is reopened.

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The best way to stop the parasite is for swimmers to monitor themselves, Adams said.

“We look to the public. Anyone who has had diarrhea or anything should not go to a pool,” Adams said. “Safety is our biggest concern. To keep all of our patrons safe, even though you are feeling better, that doesn’t mean that you are still not contagious.”

The Clark County Combined Health District recommends people diagnosed with cryptosporidium should avoid pools and other bodies of water for at least two weeks.

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