Since the birth ofAquatics International 20 years ago, RWIs including cryptosporidium, have become one of the major topics in the pages of the publication. Certainly aquatic parasites have existed for much longer than two decades, but over the past several years, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have documented a rise in the number of outbreaks.
According to CDC reports, from 1995 to 2004 facilities were hit with approximately five aquatics-facility relatedcrypto outbreaks a year. That number jumped to 22 in 2006 and to 29 in 2007. Individual stats are even more startling. Last year?s numbers are still being finalized, but the agency?s preliminary reports of documentedcrypto cases number 10,423. Just under 5,000 cases were reported in 2005, and fewer than 3,000 in 2000.
Health experts and aquatics professionals agree that several factors may be contributing to the increasing numbers.
?I think RWIs are being reported more now than they were 20 years ago,? says Scott Runkle, who is aquatics/safety supervisor of the Skokie Park District in Skokie Ill., and president of the Aquatics Branch of the National Recreation and Parks Association. ?There are better testing methods now and it?s a ?hot? topic, so doctors look for that more than before,? he adds.
The CDC findings have been a driving force behind more coverage in the mainstream press and a proactive response from the industry. CDC is now implementing an online reporting tool, similar to the one health departments use to report food-borne illnesses. Additionally, the National Swimming Pool Foundation recently launched an e-mail outbreak warning system, supported by the CDC.
Crypto also has sparked some major new research on pool sanitation. ?We?re realizing primary means of protecting the public is not enough. We need to come up with [effective] supplemental measures,? says CDC epidemiologist Michele Hlavsa. Today, experts are looking at UV and ozone and how to most effectively utilize these methods to supplement chlorine sanitization, and operators across the nation are installing these systems as additional barriers of protection.
Perhaps the most tangible effect of the rise in reportedcrypto outbreaks has been more proactive public education. The CDC and other health organizations have launched public information campaigns, and pool operators are following their lead. ?Now some [facilities] are making announcements and posting information about RWIs,? Runkle says. ?[This] can only help in the long run.?