A number of recreational water illness outbreaks were reported
during summer 2011, and experts say that record hot weather —
including a July heat wave which hit 23 states — may mean a
larger number of cases this year.
Additionally, a new study indicates there’s a greater
likelihood of developing a gastrointestinal illness after a dip in
a public swimming pool.
One of the largest outbreaks of 2011 was in the Cincinnati/
Northern Kentucky area. Health officials confirmed more than 250
cases of crypto, along with a larger-than-normal number of
Shigella cases (nearly 130). More than a dozen pools were
“Historically, we have seen outbreaks,” said Emily
Gresham Wherle, public information administrator at the Northern
Kentucky Health Department. “This year, we have taken a more
aggressive approach to try and curb the spread of the illnesses,
and hope to see some success in that.”
In the Kansas City area, the Missouri Department of Health and
Senior Services reported an 88.5 percent increase over the median
number of crypto cases in the past five years. An August
outbreak of at least 80 confirmed cases prompted officials to ask
pool operators to close for the season early. Several did shut down
ahead of schedule, and season-end events were canceled.
Other crypto outbreaks occurred in Temple, Texas, where at
least a dozen cases were reported; in the Pueblo, Colo., area,
where at least 15 cases were confirmed, stemming from Wild Waters
Park in Walsenburg, about 50 miles outside Pueblo; and Lafayette
County, Mo., where there were at least seven confirmed cases
connected to the Lexington Water Park.
Operators voluntarily superchlorinated, but “there were no
certified pool operators on site and no disinfection logs,”
noted Tom Emerson, Lafayette County Health Department environmental
public health specialist. He is planning to push for a law that
would require certified operators on site.
Crypto and Shigella weren’t the only
threats this summer. In June, six children were hospitalized with
E. coli o157 after visiting the Opelika (Ala.) SportsPlex
and Aquatic Center.
Anyone who experienced an RWI this summer knows all too well what
researchers in Melbourne, Australia, have learned. In a study
published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, they
found that among a cohort group of about 2,800, the risk of
gastroenteritis went up about 25 percent after a pool visit.
Here in the United States, preliminary outbreak statistics for 2011
will be available next year, said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Swimming
Program. Nonweather factors that could impact final numbers include
greater awareness among health officials and the public, and
streamlined reporting methods.