02 December 2015

NSW Health is urging people who have been unwell with diarrhoea to avoid swimming pools until at least two weeks after they have recovered, following a sharp increase in cryptosporidiosis cases in NSW.

Dr Jeremy McAnulty, Director of Health Protection at NSW Health, said this was important in preventing outbreaks of the diarrhoeal disease, as swimming pools can be easily contaminated by infectious swimmers.

Dr McAnulty said outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis linked to pools have occurred several times in NSW in recent years, with the biggest outbreak in 1998, when more than 1,000 cases were confirmed.

“Cryptosporidiosis is caused by a parasitic infection of the intestine that is easily spread in swimming pools and person to person or, less commonly, via drinking contaminated water or touching animals,” said Dr McAnulty.

“The most common symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes fever, nausea and vomiting. There is no specific treatment for the condition and symptoms may last a few weeks in some people,” he said.

To avoid getting infected with the parasite:

  • aways wash your hands thoroughly for at least 10 seconds with soap and running water after using the toilet, changing nappies, or handling animals
  • avoid swallowing or putting pool or spa water in your mouth
  • don’t drink untreated water, e.g. when camping or bush walking, bringing water to a rolling boil will kill these parasites.

Dr McAnulty also urged public pool operators to adhere to the NSW Health guidelines on minimising the risk of cryptosporidium in pools and spas.

For resources and further information, pool operators should go to Public swimming pools and spa pools.

For more information on cryptosporidiosis visit Cryptosporidiosis.

For data on cryptosporidium cases refer to Cryptosporidiosis notifications in NSW residents.