The Department of Health is urging people who have had diarrhoea not to enter any aquatic facility (including swimming pool, spa, spray park/interactive water feature) until at least two weeks after they have fully recovered.
The warning follows a substantial increase in cryptosporidiosis notifications – 195 cases have been reported to the Department since 1 January 2020, compared to an average of 63 cases for the same period in the previous five years.
The highest rate of infection is in children under five and most cases occurred in the Perth metropolitan area. As only a small proportion of people who contract the parasite are tested for it by a doctor, many cases are likely unreported.
Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrhoeal disease caused by a parasitic infection of the intestine, which is easily spread from person-to-person via swimming pools, waterparks, interactive fountains, and spas. The most common symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes fever, nausea and vomiting.
There is no specific treatment for the condition and symptoms may last a few weeks in some people. Although most illness is mild and self-limiting, certain groups are more at risk of severe illness if infected, including younger children, pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune systems.
The organism lasts for long periods in water and the environment and is not destroyed by regular chlorination. After exposure it can take up to 12 days to develop symptoms. Individuals are potentially infectious from the onset of symptoms until two weeks after becoming asymptomatic.
People at greatest risk of contracting the disease are those who may ingest water from contaminated swimming pools/water bodies. The organism may also be transmitted within households and childcare facilities.
The Department’s key priority is the prevention of further cases through hygiene measures at pools, childcare facilities and in household settings where there are cases. The Department is also working with pool managers to ensure effective measures are in place to address the issue.
To keep aquatic facilities free from contamination, it is vital that people do not enter swimming pools, spas or spray parks/interactive water features until at least two weeks after they have completely recovered from a diarrhoeal illness.
Basic hygiene steps can also be taken to avoid the parasite. Simply:
- wash your hands thoroughly for 15 seconds with soap and running water after using the toilet, changing nappies, and before preparing or handling food or drinks
- avoid swallowing or putting pool or spa water in your mouth.
Further, to avoid pool contamination by younger children, parents are asked to:
- take their child on regular bathroom breaks
- ensure children who are not toilet-trained are wearing appropriate swimming nappies or waterproof tight-fitting pants over swimmers
- change nappies in a bathroom and not at the poolside – this will prevent germs being spread to surfaces or objects in and around the pool
- wash their child thoroughly (especially on the bottom) with soap and water before going swimming
- wash their hands with soap and water after changing a child’s nappy.
Anyone concerned about their symptoms should contact their GP.