Public health officials and public pool operators have been working together to prevent another outbreak of cryptosporidium like the one that sickened 2,000 Utahns last year. The rest of the effort must come from the public itself, said state and local health officials, who Friday introduced an ad campaign, "Keep It Clean. No Crypto."
New pool regulations went into effect Thursday. They require people who currently have, or are less than two weeks out from, diarrhea to stay out of the water. Anyone 3 and under must wear swim diapers or pants, as must those of any age who lack bowel control. Diapers are to be changed in the restrooms, and the baby's bottom and changer's hands are to be washed with soap and water.
And speaking of soap and water, that's a requirement for the pre-dip shower that too many people traditionally have bypassed, according to Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. The cleansing shower needs to focus "down there and back there," to ensure no fecal material gets into the pool. And while the rules are primarily "honor system," avoiding an outbreak relies heavily on everyone following those rules, he added.
Dr. David Sundwall, executive director of the state health department, said he hopes the rules and their successful application will be enough.
"We've been criticized for not banning kids outright from pools," he said. But he said that there's not a way to predict whether cryptosporidium will be a problem this year. The measures are designed to see that it's not.
Sundwall also put state legislators on notice that the Utah Department of Health intends to ask for the third time for funding to implement an electronic disease surveillance system. Such a system would cost $1.3 million, but it's crucial, Sundwall said. The crypto outbreak last summer was well under way before it captured health officials' attention because there was no real-time reporting; instead, paper reports trickled in from around the state.
"We could have detected and prevented this quicker," he said.
Such a surveillance system tracks illness trends, outbreaks and epidemics in real time. But while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says every state must have such a system, many, including Utah, are struggling to get one.As for the crypto, Kristin Riker of Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation says that pool owners and operators are taking advantage of new technologies, including ozone and ultraviolet systems, to boost efforts to keep pools clean. Still, "they only go so far. It only takes one person to infect" a pool, and when that happens, it takes several hours to clean it again.
You can download the new ad campaign clips from the following links: