HomeHealthHealth authorities issue swim warning after diarrhoea outbreaks

Health authorities issue swim warning after diarrhoea outbreaks

Summer in Australia is all about swimming, but a warning has been issued about swimming in pools following outbreaks of diarrhoea in two states.

NSW Health and Queensland health authorities have advised people who have had diarrhoea not to swim for at least two weeks following outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis.

Since the start of 2024 to 7 February, Queensland has recorded 823 cryptosporidiosis cases and NSW Health has recorded 498 cases as of 13 February.

This compares to the five-year average of 95 cases a year for NSW, and Queensland’s January 2024 total is 13 times higher than the January 2023 record of 53 cases.

Victoria recorded an outbreak last year

The majority of the Queensland cases were recorded in Brisbane, but there were also cases in West Moreton, Darling Downs, Central Queensland, Townsville, and Mackay.

Children at risk

Health Protection NSW executive director Dr Jeremy McAnulty said as almost half the cases were children aged under 10, parents and guardians needed to be especially aware of the risks. 

“Cryptosporidiosis is commonly acquired by swimming in, and swallowing, water contaminated with cryptosporidium parasites,” Dr McAnulty said.

“The parasite survives for many days, even in chlorinated pools, and in the past very large outbreaks have been caused by people who had recently been infected going swimming.

“Almost half of the cases reported this year had been swimming during their exposure period, and with such a high proportion of young children affected and with many schools about to hold swimming carnivals, we’re urging parents to stay alert for symptoms,” he said.

Health authorities ask people to stay away from pools for two weeks after contracting cryptosporidiosis as people can remain infectious after symptoms have ended.

Avoid swimming

People who have had diarrhoea should:

  • avoid swimming for at least two weeks after symptoms resolve
  • avoid sharing towels for at least two weeks after symptoms resolve
  • avoid handling food for at least 48 hours after symptoms resolve
  • children who have diarrhoea should be kept home from preschool, childcare, or playgroup until 24 hours after the diarrhoea has completely stopped.

NSW Health also recommends to: 

  • avoid swimming in estuaries and inland waterways (e.g. rivers, creeks, dams) during and for at least three days after heavy rain
  • avoid swimming at ocean beaches during and for at least one day after heavy rain 
  • avoid swallowing water when swimming
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds after using the toilet, handling animals or their manure, changing nappies, working in the garden and before preparing food or drinks
  • do not drink untreated water (for example, from lakes or streams). Boiling water by bringing it to a rolling boil is sufficient to kill Cryptosporidium.

What is cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrhoeal disease caused by a parasite, Cryptosporidium, which infects the intestine and is a common cause of acute diarrhoea in young children. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and loss of appetite. It’s commonly known as ‘crypto’.

People with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms.

Almost half the cases occur in children aged under 10 and it is commonly acquired by swimming in, and swallowing, water contaminated with cryptosporidium parasites.

Cryptosporidium parasites will survive for days in chlorinated pools. 

Do you know anyone who has contracted cryptosporidiosis? How did they acquire it? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Buruli ulcer – mystery solved!

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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