For Immediate Release
May 20, 2010

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

KDHE Urges Precautions Against Recreational Water Illnesses

The week prior to Memorial Day (May 24-30) 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).

RWIs are caused by germs spread through swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, interactive fountains, water play areas, lakes, rivers, or oceans.  One type of germ that causes RWI outbreaks is Cryptosporidium (“Crypto”).  It is a chlorine-resistant parasite, and is primarily associated with treated recreational water venues, such as pools and water parks. 

Since 2003 an overall increase in the number of confirmed crypto cases have occurred for the State of Kansas.  In 2009, Kansas had 103 confirmed cases.

“Recreational water venues are important sites for exercise and leisure,” said Roderick Bremby, Secretary of KDHE. “We want everyone to have a healthy swimming experience.”

KDHE and CDC urge swimmers to follow some simple steps to reduce the risk of recreational water illnesses.

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

In addition to the simple steps suggested to minimize the risk of RWIs, the RWI Prevention Week has two themes they are also addressing this year: pool inspections and the Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming – Awareness, Action & Advocacy. 

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

Pool inspection data can help pool programs identify common health code violations and determine priorities for keeping their facilities safe.  Having the right disinfectant and pH levels in recreational water is essential to stopping the spread of germs that cause RWIs. 

Swimmers are encouraged to be Aware of RWIs and learn how to protect themselves.  Suggestions for Action involve purchasing your own test strips from a local hardware or pool supply store to check pool water or asking the pool operator about chlorine and pH levels. Advocacy is to help encourage pool operators to take necessary steps to kill germs causing RWI as well as educate other swimmers about RWIs to promote healthy swimming.

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 recreational water venues.  It can be found at:  http://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.