The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region has traced the parasite cryptosporidium to more sources than just the Kinsmen Water Park pool.
In August, the waterpark was shut down early due to a few cases of cryptosporidium being linked to the people using the pool.
At first, there were just a handful of confirmed cases of the parasite, but there are now more lab-confirmed cases, said PAPHR medical health officer Dr. Khami Chokani.
“Of course there are more cases that are presenting with clinical signs and symptoms and in some cases may have not actually submitted a stool sample,” Chokani said.
Not only are there more cases, the cases they have found different clusters of the parasite.
“This has modified what initially we had considered at the beginning of where we were able to say maybe this could have come from particular sources,” Chokani said. “We have now moved to more numbers of clusters, which have got various traces where that transmission could have occurred.”
He said this is where they are being challenged because it essentially means someone forgot to wash their hands after going to the washroom.
“For instance, we found a common area has been the Kinsmen Pool, but now we are finding that it may be not only within the water in the pool, but could have been as well that somebody didn’t wash their hands after using the toilet and touched a particular surface,” Chokani said.
Since cryptosporidium only needs between one and 10 cysts to be passed on, if someone doesn’t wash it is easily passed on.
“Just because you don’t see fecal matter on an item, that does not mean it is not contaminated,” Chokani said. “If the person who touched it before you touched it did not wash their hands, has not practised good personal hygiene of using soap and water, then that innate object will be a place where the cysts will watch for you to come and touch it and now you’ve got them.”
Now they have to look further than the pool water to find the source, Chokani said.
Cryptosporidium can be passed on a number of ways. If someone does not wash his or her hands, any form of touching can pass it on.
“This is why we have now picked up several other clusters,” Chokani said. “That is the challenge. Yes, our first one was the Kinsmen Pool, our first one was related to some people and some activities that occur, but now it has grown so much bigger. The challenge we are now facing is some of these predate our first cases that we thought were first cases.”
The city was concerned the Frank Dunn Pool may have also been contaminated, so instead of opening it last week as scheduled, the pool was instead superchlorinated to make sure there were no traces of the parasite in the system.
Hopefully the pool will be open within the next week, according to both Chokani and a city press release.
Animals are also carriers of the parasite, so Chokani recommended to make sure pets are dewormed on a regular basis to keep the risk of passing cryptosporidium between species.
Some people may not even show signs of illness when they have the parasite, he added, which is why it is hard to trace what the source is.
“You have only a week or a few days with an upset tummy and your body gets rid of it or the cryptosporidium creates a symbiotic relationship with you,” Chokani said. “There are 70 per cent of the people spreading the cysts around aren’t sick at all. They have no signs and symptoms but we are shedding the cysts and that can happen for anything from two months to six months.”
The symptoms can be anything from mild illness to explosive diarrhea, he said.
“The wonderful thing is it will not kill you but it will make you feel sick, really sick and you will not be able to function as you should,” Chokani said. “You find instead of being able to put in a solid eight hours of work, with your potty breaks you are doing only five hours.”
He advises anyone feeling ill to stay away from water-based activates and stay home to not pass it on to other people.
“If you have diarrhea and if your stomach has been upset -- do not go into a hot tub, do not go share a bath, do not go in the swimming pool for at least 48 hours,” Chokani said. “If your little one has diarrhea, please keep them away from the daycare because it will spread amongst those kids.”
Above all, Chokani said, the best advice he can give is to wash your hands to make sure you are not passing on the parasite or contracting it.
“It is very easy for it to go around,” Chokani said. “If you have to go to the store, please remember this -- wash with soap and water. Before you prepare food -- wash your hands. Before you go back to work -- wash your hands. Soap and water is one of the best things that are there is to prevent disease but it is one of the things we don’t do and have taken for granted. If you have an upset tummy, please do not spread it to other people in the home, the stores. Please thing of the others who are going to have that runny tummy too.”
Anyone who thinks they may have contracted the parasite is encouraged to go see their family physician so the health district will be able to continue their investigation.