Health Dept. eases restrictions in pools following Shigella outbreak

COVINGTON, KY (FOX19) - Children who are not toilet trained can again swim in public pools in Northern Kentucky, under revised guidelines issued Thursday by the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

The restriction, in place since June 3, has been part of an effort to stop the spread of Shigella.

More than 100 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, a bacteria that infects the bowels, 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.

"When faced with a Shigella outbreak, a big concern is that the bacteria, and other similar illnesses, could infect a larger population through local swimming pools," said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. "The restriction on diapers in pools was an effective strategy. In past Shigella outbreaks, when restrictions were not in place, we saw a significant increase of Shigella cases and other recreational water illnesses in June. This June, with restrictions in place, we have not seen as many cases of Shigella, or other illnesses, including Cryptosporidium."

Other efforts to contain the Shigella outbreak will continue, focusing on child care centers and swimming pool facilities.

Since April, 71 percent of Shigella cases reported have been connected to child care centers. Thus, education and prevention efforts will continue to focus on child care, as has been the case since the outbreak began.

The Health Department has supplied all licensed child care centers with educational information about the outbreak and steps they should take to control the spread of germs. All child care centers are required to follow sanitization and cleaning guidelines and exclude children who are sick. Proper procedures for hand washing for students and staff is reinforced. Centers are also not permitted to use water tables until the outbreak is over.

Pools must be permitted and approved by the Health Department. Any child care center that has a case of Shigella is also visited by a team of Health Department staff to inspect the facility, educate the staff on proper infection control procedures and make recommendations for any changes needed to decrease the risk of transmission of diseases.

"We realize that the pool restrictions have forced many families to change their plans this month," said Saddler. "But, parents and pool operators have played and need to continue to play a vital role in helping us stop the spread of Shigella in our community," said Saddler. "Wash your hands frequently. If your child has been sick with diarrhea, we need you to keep him/her home from child care and not allow him/her to go swimming. Don't change diapers at poolside either, and make sure to take frequent bathroom breaks while at the pool."

Pool operators also will continue to take steps to contain Shigella by excluding patrons who have been ill and increasing chlorine levels in response to accidents or after a person infected with Shigella has been swimming. All 350 pools in Northern Kentucky are being notified of the revised guidelines and the Health Department's environmental inspectors are emphasizing the prevention of recreational water illnesses as they inspect public pools.

Tips for healthy swimming include:

  1. Anyone who has been ill with diarrhea needs to stay out of swimming pools for at least two weeks after the diarrhea stopseven if he/she feels better.
  2. Don't swallow the pool water or water playground water.
  3. Practice good hygiene. Shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  4. Take children on bathroom breaks often.
  5. Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside.
  6. Wash your child thoroughly (especially the bottom) with soap and water before swimming.

For more information on Shigella, please visit the Health Department's Web site at