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Salt Lake County raising a stink over pool cleanliness

Published: Tuesday, June 10 2014 6:10 p.m. MDT

A young man goes off the diving board at the Redwood Recreation Center, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Public health officials remain concerned about cryptosporidium contamination.

Michelle Tessier, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Children at the Redwood Recreation Center splashed, kicked and squealed with glee as they cooled off in the swimming pool Tuesday.

Several children lost no time making their way from the pool to the diving board and back again.

They clambered out of the pool, rushing to the diving board and hoisting up their swimsuit bottoms as they went.

"Wash your bum," Rick Ledbetter, said water quality and hazardous waste specialist for the Salt Lake County Health Department, sharing with parents and children how to have a fun summer while decreasing the risk of a run-in with cryptosporidium.

The microscopic parasite can cause watery diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps and vomiting, Ledbetter said, but it may take a week for those symptoms to surface.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, cryptosporidium, also known as crypto, is most commonly spread through water and is protected by an outer shell that allows the parasite to survive outside of the body for long periods of time. This includes being very tolerant to chlorine.

"It can actually survive in pool water for 10 ½ days at your minimum chlorine level in the pool," Ledbetter said.

The first line of defense against crypto is to keep feces out of the pool in the first place, he said.

"We would remind parents to please take their kids on frequent potty breaks (and) check the diapers often," Ledbetter said, suggesting checks every half-hour to an hour.

Parents should not bring their children to the pool if they've had diarrhea in recent weeks. They shouldn't change diapers poolside, but rather use the restroom or changing stations. When they are done, parents need to remember to wash their children's buttocks with soap and water, Ledbetter said. Parents should also wash their children's hands thoroughly.

"The last thing we need is for any small amounts of feces or poop to get into the pool," he said, "because … any germs that are on the body will be washed off into the pool water.

"Most of these germs that we're talking about, people can become infected by simply swallowing contaminated poopy pool water or lake water," Ledbetter said.

Jennica Rogers was at the pool Tuesday watching 20 children from ABC Great Beginnings Child Care.

Rogers said she makes sure the children rinse off before getting in the pool and encourages parents to make sure their kids are clean and hygienic, especially before dipping in the pool.

"Personally, as a mother, I hesitate taking my daughter to a public pool," Rogers said of her 4-year-old. "I know that there are kids that are not clean, and some people don't know how to make sure their kids are clean."

She said it is just too easy for children to swallow pool water.

Ledbetter said children swimming actively in a pool for 45 minutes swallow seven teaspoons of water on average.

"That's more than enough to swallow an infected dose of crypto," he said.

Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the Salt Lake County Health Department, said parents can also help keep their children safe by paying attention to strong chlorine smells.

"That means there's a lot of microorganisms or crap in the pool that's been bonded with the free chlorine," Rupp said. "Once the free chlorine's been bonded, it creates the odor."

Chlorine that's been bonded with microorganisms causes red eyes and itchy skin, he said.

Ledbetter said there was a spike in crypto activity in 2012 within Salt Lake County public pools with 39 confirmed cases. In 2013, Rupp said, there were only eight.

Health inspectors in Salt Lake County and statewide routinely inspect pools, and samples are taken every month while the pools are open, Ledbetter said.

Rupp said all Salt Lake County pools have an ultraviolet filter that serves as a secondary disinfectant system after chlorine.

"Our No. 1 concern is actually the swimmer because they're the source for introducing germs into the pool water," Ledbetter said. "We want to protect the public health, so we want to get with the public because they're the No. 1 line of defense to protecting everybody else out there in the pool."

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com

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