By Stacy Kess
Before diving in the pool to cool off this summer, the Delaware General Health District is offering two events to educate the public on recreational illness and injury prevention.
Sanitarians from the DGHD Food Protection and Public Safety Unit will visit the Liberty Township-Powell YMCA from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and the Delaware YMCA from 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday for Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week. Events will include education, activities and a raffle for a swimming-inspired gift basket.
DGHD said swimming pools create an opportunity for germs to spread, despite filtration and chlorination. The same is true for water parks, splash pads and hot tubs. Most recreational water illnesses are caused by germs that come from fecal matter and cause diarrhea. Cryptosporidium, a parasite spread by swallowing contaminated water, which causes diarrhea and abdominal cramping, was reported eight times in Delaware County in 2013, according to the Ohio Department of Health. It was reported 373 times across Ohio in 2013. A virulent type of E. coli (O157:H7), Giardia and norovirus can also cause diarrheal illnesses.
Shigella, a bacteria that causes a diarrheal illness, was responsible for 25 illnesses in Delaware County in 2013 and 714 across Ohio last year. Shigella is a commonly shared bacteria among toddlers and young children in close contact, such as in day cares, but can cause recreational water illnesses. According to ODH, it has mild symptoms while requiring a small dose of infectious material to become ill.
“If you have any type of gastrointestinal disease, do not go in the pool at all,” DGHD assistant health commissioner Nancy Shapiro. “Keep in mind that chlorine and other disinfectants do not kill all types of germs.”
Shapiro said some organisms that can be killed require significant exposure to disinfectants to eliminate the danger of transmitting disease.
To keep diarrheal illnesses out of swimming areas, DGHD encourages practices including staying out of the water if you have diarrhea, taking bathroom breaks every 60 minutes, checking diapers every 30 to 60 minutes, changing diapers away from the water and not drinking water from recreational areas or sitting on water jets in pools.
Safety is also a concern for swimmers: the USA Swimming Foundation reported that at least 202 children across the country drowned in a swimming pool or spa between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2013, and that 143 of those who drowned were under the age of 5.
When it comes to safety, ODH also suggests never swimming alone so that a person is available to call for help if you are in need of emergency help; fencing in private and backyard swimming pools to prevent young children from entering the area unattended; never leaving young children unattended near a pool or body of water; teaching children to swim early; and using a life-jacket around natural bodies of water, even if you are trained swimmer.
For additional information, contact the Delaware General Health District’s Food Protection and Public Safety Unit at 740-368-1700 or visit DelawareHealth.org.
Reporter Stacy Kess can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @StacyMKess.