The Northern Kentucky Health Department is urging those who have been ill with diarrhea in the last two weeks to stay out of the pool.
More than 60 cases of Shigella have been reported in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties since April. Typically, about 25 cases are reported for the entire year.
Shigella is a bacteria that infects the bowels. It causes an illness called Shigellosis, with symptoms including diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting. Shigella primarily infects young children, since it is spread through contact with the stool of an infected person.
"Up to now, Shigella cases have been focused on child care centers," said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. "But, the bacteria spread easily through water— infection can occur between the time a person with Shigella has an accident in a pool and the bacteria is killed by the chemicals in the pool water. Shigella can be spread after the symptoms end, so people who have had diarrhea recently should not swim, even if they feel better and the diarrhea has ended. We are also asking that children who are not toilet trained avoid swimming in public pools. Even if children are in plastic diaper pants or diapers designed for use in water, commonly called swimmies, you can't guarantee that fecal matter will not escape into the pool water."
The Health Department is providing education on Shigella prevention to more than 350 pools in Northern Kentucky. Pool operators will be given information about the outbreak and how to react when they learn that someone infected has been in their pool or a fecal accident occurs. They will also receive sample posters on water-borne illness prevention. Further, the Health Department's environmental inspectors are emphasizing the prevention of recreational water illnesses as they inspect public pools.
Outreach to child care centers and local doctors' offices about Shigella will continue.
The Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following practices be followed at swimming pools and water playgrounds:
- Anyone who has been ill with diarrhea in the last two weeks should not swim—even if they feel better.
- Children who are not toilet trained should avoid swimming in public pools.
- Don't swallow the pool or water playground water.
- Practice good hygiene. Shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Take children on bathroom breaks often.
- Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside.
- Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming.
- No swimming pool/wading pool use is allowed at child care centers unless the pool is permitted and approved by the Health Department.
Each year, about 18,000 cases of Shigella are reported in the United States, according to the CDC. Because many milder cases of Shigella are not diagnosed or reported, the CDC estimates that the actual number of cases may be 20 times greater.
Anyone with symptoms of Shigella should contact his or her health care provider. The illness can be treated with antibiotics. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required to avoid dehydration.
For more information on Shigella, please visit the Health Department's Web site at http://www.nkyhealth.org.