Shigella cases in NKY lead to strict pool rules for toddlers

NEWPORT, KY (FOX19) - The Northern Kentucky Health Department is enacting a new rule for all public pools. Children who are not potty trained are no longer allowed in public pools, even those wearing swim diapers.

There are around 350 pools in Northern Kentucky that the Health Department will be monitoring. Health officials said this is to protect the community from the highly contagious disease that can be spread through fecal matter.

Shigella cases are twice what they should be for the year. That's more than sixty cases and double what was first reported since late April-early May. These are cases that were showing-up in daycare centers.

There is a strong warning from the Health Department about which kids should not be in pools or risk making us all sick.

"Anyone who has diarrhea or has had diarrhea in the last couple of weeks should not be in a public swimming pool," said Dr. Lynne Saddler, who is District Director of Health in Northern Kentucky. "Children who are not toilet trained should not be in a public swimming pool."

It's that simple, she said, stay out of the pool or you risk giving people the Shigella bacteria.

"And they're still predominantly in children, young children and toddlers in the daycare centers," Dr. Saddler said.

The pools have just opened and the chances for spreading are amplified, especially for children who are not potty trained.

"Even with swimmies on, or any of those other kinds of things, there's still the opportunity for fecal matter to leak out into the swimming pool," said Dr. Saddler.

Just ask George Colston and his daughter. "I told him, Dad," exclaimed his 6-year-old daughter Brynn. "Look at that! Look at that! There's something in the pool!"

"Everybody just cleared-out, like in a panic and everything," Colston said

The Colstons had a "close encounter"of the worst kind in a baby pool.

"Kids'll come up to you like, um, there's something in the pool," said lifeguard Jennifer Crail. "And we'd have to shut it down for at least 24 hours."

"And in fact, if there's a fecal accident in a swimming pool, the pool is required to get everyone out, to shut-down and they have to do something what they call hyper-chlorination of the pool for 12, well almost 13 hours," Dr. Saddler said.

Shigella can be readily transmitted, even in the best of chlorinated pools.

"And even if your child is healthy, you don't know about other children or other toddlers who are not toilet trained who've been in that water," Saddler said. "Don't change diapers at poolside, take them to the bathroom and make sure that you wash your hands very very well."

Remember to always take a shower before getting in the pool. Colston told us he's fine with the rule, especially since his other 2-year-old daughter is not yet potty trained.

"I'm fine with the rule because would rather her not get sick," he said.

We caught up with a young girl named Angel, who showed-us how she loves to splash around in the pool.

"It's cold!," she giggled.

Lifeguard Jennifer Crail keeps a close eye on the kids and the water at the Veterans Memorial Pool in Newport, KY. She told us, not every parent heeds the rules. "Some of them do," Crail said. "We have to yell at them a couple times."

The Shigella problem poses a mixed blessing for some Northern Kentucky pools.

Because of budget delays and cuts, many local pools were not able to get lifeguards on staff in-time, so a bunch are not even open right now, which alone will help stop the spread of Shigella.

But it also means, many kids and adults, won't have a pool to cool off in this summer.

Copyright 2011 FOX19. All Rights Reserved.