Idaho’s Central District Health Department reports 21 cases of cryptosporidiosis in southwest Idaho in the past month. That’s what you get when you take in the parasite cryptosporidium, known as crypto for short.
It’s found in feces and it's often picked up by swimming in contaminated water. A few weeks ago we reported that crypto had returned to the Treasure Valley. Central District Health wouldn't reveal the swimming pools that were connected to the outbreak.
Ivywild is Boise’s most popular city pool. More than 40,000 people swim here every summer. Early in the morning the water is smooth like a mirror and reflects the features people come for.
“We have a pretzel slide, then we have two drop off slides. It’s kind of cool for all ages,” says Paula Ekins, aquatics coordinator for Boise’s parks. She confirms that Ivywild shut down twice in August to treat the pool for crypto.
In fact Ivywild is linked to more cases of crypto this year than any other Treasure Valley pool. The parasite causes stomach problems that include severe pain, diarrhea, vomiting and in rare cases death. Ekins says pool mangers kill crypto through hyper-chlorination.
“Even if you hyper-chlorinate then if the other pools are not participating in the same procedures, you just could pass it back and forth," she says. "The most important is ending it obviously and educating your patrons and saying hey, if you’re sick don’t come to the pool.”
Central District Health Department was satisfied with the hyper-chlorination and education efforts at Ivywild and eight other pools where people with crypto swam. Officials decided not to release the pool names linked to the outbreak.
But through a public records request Boise State Public Radio obtained and examined 23 reports about confirmed and probable cases. The reports show at least nine patients swam at Ivywild during the time they likely got the bug or while they had it.
Meridian Swimming Pool is named in seven reports. Spencer Meinburg, the pool manager there, says he became aware of the crypto early this month. “We had an ill employee, that’s when we hyper-chlorinated the pool," he says.
None of the reports contain definitive statements of where a patient encountered the parasite. Although four reports link Ivywild to crypto. At least one case is suspected from Meridian Pool. At that facility Meinburg says the city is taking the outbreak seriously.
“We’re looking at the investment of getting an ultraviolet sanitation system on the main pool," he says. "We don’t want the public to be concerned about getting sick when they come swim.”
Some pools use a U.V. light filtration system to prevent crypto. They’re considered more effective in killing the parasite than just chlorine. Meridian has one for its kiddy pool. Roaring Springs Water Park, which is named in four of the crypto reports, uses them on some of its water features. No Boise pools have U.V. filters.
Boise aquatics coordinator Paula Ekins says cost will prevent Boise from adding U.V. filters to any of its existing pools. They can run thousands of dollars. The city would consider installing the filters on any new pools.
While this year’s outbreak is about twice what southwest Idaho sees in an average year, it pales in comparison to 2007 when nearly 300 people got crypto. Health officials say the best way for swimmers to avoid contamination is to keep water out of their mouths.
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio