Friday, August 01, 2008

Media reports that swimming pools cannot defect against a common parasite: a problem for commercial spas with whilrpools?

Major media have reported that recreational swimming pools (particularly smaller pools at home) and theoretically water parks, could pose a difficult to manage health hazard. A parasite called Cryptosporidium parvum resists disinfection with standard chlorine procedures, which work against most bacteria. A few incidents of severe illness in young healthy people have been reported around the country.

Cryptosporidium has long been known as an opportunistic infection associated with HIV infection, when it becomes intractable and does not resolve. Among people without impaired immunity is normally resolves, although the symptoms can be severe.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta has published a study on the problem. The link is here. Chlorine dioxide is a more effective disinfectant than normal hypochlorite preparations.

The report has some practical significance. Public health authorities suggest that toddlers not yet potty-trained not be allowed into swimming pools accessed by others, and that persons having had diarrhea not enter them for two weeks. The risk, however, exists only if someone actually is infected by the specific protozoan.

There would seem to be a possible practical liability risk for operators of swimming areas and whirlpools, such as health spas. Generally clubs have warnings asking for voluntary compliance from customers but have no practical way to enforce them.

Some clubs no longer build whirlpool facilities, and (to the irritation of members who believe they have paid for them) some have a lot more downtime with them now than they did ten years ago, as county or city health departments have become much stricter in inspecting them.

I visited a local Ballys spa today and found everything normal as far as the pools and whirlpools. But on one occasion, about a year ago, an elderly patron complained when others did not shower in front of her in the whirlpool area (when there are ample showering facilities in the normal change rooms)

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