Published Friday 16 Feb 2018

Regional Public Health has noticed an increase in cryptosporidium cases, many associated with swimming facilities, in the Wellington region over recent weeks.

Regional Public Health and Kāpiti Coast District Council are reminding people that following an illness with diarrhoea and tummy upset not to swim in public pools or attend splash pads for at least two weeks. This follows an increased number of cryptosporidium illness being reported in the Wellington region over recent weeks.

“Many people are not aware that swimming too soon after being sick with diarrhoea is a risk for passing infection onto other pool and splash pad users” says Dr Jill McKenzie, Medical Officer of Health. “People can still pass bugs like cryptosporidium onto others for many days after no longer feeling ill.”

Swimming pools have signage reminding people not to swim after being sick and to shower before entering the pool. The illness is often in the under 5 years age group and it is important to ensure tight fitting togs are worn by this group.

Although modern treatment systems can remove the bug, people may come into contact with the bug before it is removed by filters. Pools in the region have been alerted to the increased number of cryptosporidium cases in the community.

Most of the recent cases reported to Regional Public Health have had contact with the Raumati splash pad around Wellington Anniversary weekend. While it was not confirmed that the splash pad was the source of the outbreak, Kāpiti Coast District Council have closed and treated the splash pad as a precaution to safeguard other users. Regional Public Health is working with pool managers across the region to ensure systems are in place to reduce the risk of spread in other facilities.

Cryptosporidium is a parasite which lives in the intestines of people, birds and animals. It produces cysts (eggs) that can survive in the environment for a long time. When a person, bird or animal is infected they pass out the cysts in their faeces.

Cryptosporidium is most often spread by hands contaminated with faeces during toilet use or nappy changing. From hands it can spread to surfaces, toys, food and water. It also spreads in shared water such as swimming pools. When the cysts are swallowed the person then becomes infected.

Symptoms include large amounts of watery diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Lack of appetite, weight loss, fever, nausea and vomiting sometimes occur. The illness is managed by ensuring good fluid intake with improvement in 2-4 days, although symptoms can last up to two weeks. If symptoms persist a doctor can arrange for testing to confirm the cause of the illness.

The best way to prevent cryptosporidiosis infection is to always practice good hand washing and drying after using the toilet, changing nappies and before preparing or eating food. Stay home from school or childcare centres until 48 hours after the diarrhoea stops. And remember not to share bugs by avoiding swimming pools and splash pads while sick and for two weeks after symptoms stop.

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