Last year, 549 people visiting public swimming pools in the Valley were infected with cryptosporidium, a bacterium found in feces that causes diarrhea and/or extreme vomiting.
This summer, public pools are taking action to ensure that those numbers are kept low.
Mark Foote of Mesa Public Pools said crypto outbreaks happen every year, just not in such large numbers.
“Crypto is one of the most highly susceptible” water-borne illnesses, said Zach Crader, an inspector for the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department. “It doesn’t take very much to get someone sick.”
The infection does not typically call for a trip to the hospital, according to Dr. Jeannine Hinds, a family physician with HonorHealth. She advises patients to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Because 74 pools were affected with the bacteria last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local pools are updating maintenance procedures and equipment. For some pools, the precautions taken can be as minimal as taking breaks.
“We do safety breaks every hour,” Foote said. “We pull them out to remind them not only to rehydrate but also to use the bathroom. We have posters and fliers that patrons can read to practice what the CDC advises.”
Even the bigger waterparks in Arizona are acting by installing new equipment to ensure it doesn’t strike again.
Wet ‘n’ Wild in Phoenix has invested $500,000 into a new UV sanitation filtration system, according to spokeswoman Heather Austin. The new equipment “works with [our] existing filtration and chlorination systems to deactivate microorganisms in the water, including chlorine-resistant pathogens,” she said.
Although no cases of cryptosporidium were reported in any of Chandler’s public pools, the city also has installed secondary UV equipment to prevent any parasitic outbreaks in its pools.
“UV is one of the only effective methods to kill the parasite,” Sheri Passey, the aquatic superintendent of the city of Chandler said.
A third type of disinfectant has also been incorporated at Mesquite Groves and Hamilton Aquatic Centers, according to Passey. The third system adds oxygen, a disinfectant, into the water.
“We are on a super-chlorination schedule for each body of water, which is typically every two weeks, and we disinfect surfaces like handrails, door handles, etc., with a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution on a weekly basis,” Passey said. “In addition, we follow the recommendations from Maricopa County and CDC when a fecal incident occurs and maintain proper disinfectant levels in the pools.”
Mesa pools use super-high-rate sand filters, which do a good job of turning over the water, according to Foote. He explained that Mesa pools use gas chlorine, which is more effective for sanitation.
While these pools are working to ensure bacteria doesn’t spread once more, people at home can also contribute to keeping the pools clean.
Swimmers are urged to shower before and after entering the water, put diapers on children who are not potty-trained and use restrooms frequently. For people who have been ill with diarrhea, they should wait at least two weeks before going into the water, according to Passey.
“We are diligently taking proactive measures in our facilities because the health and safety of our customers is a top priority,” Passey said.