For Immediate Release
May 16, 2008

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461


KDHE Urges Precautions Against Recreational Water Illnesses

The week preceding Memorial Day (May 19-25) has been designated as National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week. With many pools opening this month, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) encourages everyone to take steps to help prevent recreational water illness (RWI).

State and local health departments across the country investigated more RWI outbreaks in 2007 than ever before. This upsurge is being driven by an increase in the number of RWI outbreaks caused by Cryptosporidium (“Crypto”), a chlorine-resistant parasite, and is primarily associated with treated recreational water venues, such as pools and water parks.

While seven RWI outbreaks caused by Crypto were identified nationwide in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received at least 18 preliminary reports on such outbreaks for 2007. Two of those reported outbreaks were in Kansas last summer, one in Johnson County and one in Sedgwick County.

“It is important swimmers realize it’s possible for some germs to survive in pools, even when properly chlorinated in a well-maintained pool,” stated Dr. Gail Hansen, State Epidemiologist. “Some organisms are very hearty, and it often only takes a small number of them to make someone sick.”

RWI can be caused by organisms such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and E. coli O157:H7 that can be spread by swallowing contaminated water. KDHE recommends the following steps for minimizing the risk of RWI:

Recreational water venues are important sites for exercise and leisure. To make this summer a healthy swimming experience, KDHE and CDC urge swimmers to continue to enjoy swimming, but remember to follow the steps above to reduce the risk of recreational water illnesses.

KDHE, in collaboration with statewide partners, has a recreational water guidelines toolkit to assist public health professionals and communities with the safe and healthy operations of public swimming pools, spas and other man-made recreational water venues. It can be found at: www.kdheks.gov/beh/water_guidelines.htm.

For more information about Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week and Healthy Swimming from CDC, please visit www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming/.