Following an unprecedented outbreak of
cryptosporidiumaround Salt Lake City, Utah health
officials took the extraordinary measure of banning
children under age 5 from public pools, including gyms and
?[To my knowledge], this is the first time
we?ve ever had this level of outbreak,?
said Rob Tobler, program manager at the environmental
health division of the Utah County Health Department.
?Everyone?s kind of hoping that
we?ll put out the fire right here.?
As of press time, approximately 1,828 Utah swimmers
reported being infected by cryptothis year, far
above the average of 30 reports annually. Salt Lake County,
which has 1,031 swimming pools and normally experiences
approximately 10 cryptocases a year, has
documented more than 490 cases in 2007 so far. Health
officials said all but one of the 700 public-access pools
in Utah County, south of Salt Lake City, have been exposed
to the parasite. Because most people don?t visit
the hospital after getting sick, state health officials
speculate that the actual number of infected swimmers in
Utah could be 10 times as high.
Cryptocan cause severe diarrhea and most often
infects a pool through just a tiny amount of fecal matter.
It also can live on flotation devices, chairs and wet
?One bout of diarrhea in a pool can contaminate
100,000 gallons of water. It takes less than 10 parasite
occysts to make somebody sick,? said Diane Raccasi,
epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health in Salt
The state of Utah doesn?t have the authority to
impose the toddler ban, but it can recommend the measure to
each county issuing permits for public pools. And every
county in northern Utah that has experienced the outbreak
The affected counties are requiring all public pool
operators to hyperchlorinate their water at least once a
week which is the recommendation of the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta.
This was a tough summer for crypto. Aquatic
outbreaks were reported in several states, according to
Michael Beach, epidemiologist and acting director for
healthy water with the CDC. He also supports the ban,
noting, ?It?s important that public health
professionals get the message out that anyone suffering
from diarrhea shouldn?t go in a pool.?
In Utah, the first cryptocases appeared in
July, and numbers exploded in August. Health officials
suspect that higher than normal temperatures and increasing
bather loads in multiple bodies of water sparked the
In addition to the ban on toddlers, the Utah health
department also recommends that people with severely
weakened immune systems not swim in the state?s
public pools until the outbreak is over.