Magazine article Parks & Recreation

How I Did It: Surviving a Major "Crypto" Parasite Outbreak: With a Comprehensive Approach, One Agency Avoids a Major Outbreak

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

How I Did It: Surviving a Major "Crypto" Parasite Outbreak: With a Comprehensive Approach, One Agency Avoids a Major Outbreak

Article excerpt

By now most of you have probably heard about Cryptosporidium, a horrible parasite that makes your bathers very sick. Cryptosporidium (commonly called Crypto) is a microscopic parasite, 2-6 microns in size, which is chlorine-resistant. Symptoms of infection include many days of watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever followed by dehydration. Preschoolers and persons with immune system conditions are particularly vulnerable. The parasite is waterborne but it can also be transmitted through food or handling fecal matter. It is ugly.

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As of Sept. 12, 2008, there were 419 confirmed cases of Cryptosporidium this past summer in the Tarrant, Texas, county area (north Texas). Of those, 114 were linked to an outbreak at Burger's Lake in Fort Worth. And these were the only confirmed cases. Every night, I watched local television news broadcasts, as the confirmed case count rose, and the footage of public pool closures got closer and closer to my town.

But luckily for us, we anticipated this outbreak and it gave us a big boost for our public relations. In 2007, our maintenance staffer, Frank Armijo, and I attended a presentation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a state aquatic conference, where they discussed the "potential nightmare" Cryptosporidium could be to a community. We decided to take as aggressive an approach to prevention as we could manage.

Chemical Prevention

We knew we couldn't budget for UV filters in all of our pools, but we needed to prepare because a metroplex outbreak would be sure to include us. We decided to go "high tech" with a new kind of chemical treatment.

In addition, we did hyper-chlorinate our water, per CDC recommendations. However chlorine is not an end-all. It's a clean-right-now solution only. I like to compare hyper-chlorinating to washing a doorknob during flu season. The next person that comes along and sneezes on your doorknob, it's back to the same mess.

Staff and Lifeguard Training

We have always been heavy with the "low-tech" methods, but this really showed our staff members why we actively work to enforce the "shower before swimming" and "no spitting or spouting" rules. We also displayed clever signs and funny posters that the CDC has on its Web site for our facilities, reinforcing those same rules. …

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