Published on August 23, 2013
Dr. Khami Chokani speaks about the cryptosporidium parasite at a press conference on Friday. The parasite has been found in four Prince Albert residents.
Herald photo by Jodi Schellenberg
Published on August 23, 2013
The city shut down the Kinsmen Water Park as a precaution after four resident of Prince Albert, who used the facility on a regular basis, were found to have the cryptosporidium parasite.
Herald file photo
Some of the visitors to the Kinsmen Water Park this summer may be feeling a little queasy.
The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region announced on Friday that visitors to the Kinsmen Water Park may have been exposed to the cryptosporidium parasite, which has the potential to cause a serious gastrointestinal illness.
“We have recently identified a group of individuals, who are residents of Prince Albert, who have had positive results for cryptosporidium, which is a parasite that can cause a gastrointestinal illness,” medical health office Dr. Khami Chokani said. “The Public Health team has traced the positive results and this is connected to a pool park that is utilized within the city.”
Since the four individuals who have the parasite used the waterpark on a regular basis, the city agreed the best course of action would to close the waterpark a few days early for the season.
“It was a challenge because until the positive results came back and were linked, there was no reason to believe there was any risk for any visitors who were at the Kinsmen Water Park,” Chokani said. “At the present time we are considering that the time period that they have had an exposure has been the entire season.”
Unfortunately, Chokani said, the cause of the illness was not confirmed until Thursday.
“At this time, we do not know exactly how many (people have the parasite) but what we can say at this time, we have only been able to identify four individuals,” Chokani said.
Cryptosporidium is a parasite that stays within a water source, Chokani explained. It is passed on by ingesting a contaminated water source.
“Places you would ingest it would be the swimming pool, in a lake, if you haven’t washed your hands after using the bathroom, salads that have not been properly cleaned -- all those type of things,” Chokani said.
The parasite is passed on through eggs or cysts that exit the body through fecal matter. It only takes 10 cysts to become infected.
“It can spread and that is where the problem comes,” Chokani said.
Since the infected individuals were using the pool, it is possible they passed it on while there.
“Every human being has one gram of fecal matter on them at all times,” Chokani said. “In one gram, there can be 10,000 cysts.”
The signs and symptoms of cryptosporidium can be from mild symptoms like an upset stomach, feeling unwell and headaches, to severe symptoms, like explosive diarrhea.
“This will last anywhere from two to 12 days,” Chokani said. “A person who is affected with it can be shedding the cysts anywhere from two to six months.”
He said there are even people who could be carrying the parasite, but do not show any symptoms.
People who are relatively healthy will most likely not have many symptoms, but those who are immunocompromised, such as the elderly, newborn babies and those with cancer or AIDS, would be more likely to have the more severe symptoms. So far, all those with the parasite have only had mild symptoms.
There is no treatment for the parasite. Chokani recommends staying hydrated and washing your hands frequently.
“In 70 per cent of the population, it does go away,” Chokani said. “In that period, before you get rid of it, you could pass it on to someone else because you didn’t wash your hands with soap and water.”
The parasitic cysts are resistant to both chlorine and alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
“You have to use good old soap and water,” Chokani said.
Although they have closed down the waterpark, that is not necessarily where the parasite originated.
“It is not that the pools were infected,” Chokani said. “What we are doing is a precautionary measure because the link that is there is all these people have been using the Kinsmen Park.”
Since it is a common factor between all those currently identified with the parasite, it was the right course of action at the time.
“Rather than put everyone else at risk, let’s go ahead and do it now,” Chokani said. “We don’t want to look back two weeks or three weeks from now when we have 2,000 cases and say, ‘Oops, we should have closed down all these places and done that.” We are being proactive about it since we have been able to identify it.”
The city is working with Public Health to ensure the safety of the waterpark for next season. Since the Frank Dunn Pool may also have been compromised, they will be implementing the same recommendations prior to opening. The opening date will be pushed back to the week of Sept. 9.
In the meantime, in order to stop the spread of the parasite, Chokani said, “if you have a poopy stomach -- do not go in the pool, lake, hot tub or any other public water facility.”