The bugging problem with pools
by Mike Isle
February is typically the hottest month of the year for us in New Zealand. These hotter temperatures make taking a dip in a nice cool swimming pool very appealing, and as the school year begins, school pools will become especially popular.
Most people don’t know that swimming pools are also an ideal breeding ground for serious gastro bugs such as Cryptosporidium (commonly known as Crypto) and other bugs such as Norovirus, Giardia and E coli, all of which are very unpleasant and potentially dangerous.
With pools, the main way we can become ill is through contact with infected or polluted water. So, to reduce the chances of people getting sick after making a splash, Canterbury DHB is raising awareness of how these bugs are transmitted in community pools and is encouraging people to follow simple advice to help limit their spread.
Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ramon Pink, said people wrongly assume chlorine will kill everything, but Crypto, in particular, is resistant to the standard chlorine dosages we find in most pools.
“People can become ill by sharing a swimming pool or spa with a person who has had a recent infection and hasn’t fully recovered from the illness.” Most people who contract gastro infections experience symptoms such as watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps and nausea, vomiting and fever.
Others, who have weakened immune systems, can develop a serious, chronic and sometimes fatal illness.
“These symptoms can occur on and off for weeks — which is why we are asking people to respect a stand-down period of two weeks after their symptoms subside, during which they should avoid swimming in pools or sharing a spa. This is to ensure they have fully recovered and are no longer infectious,” said Dr Pink.