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Water-borne illness breaks out in Ashland pools

At least 10 people, mostly children, have been sickened by intestinal illness, apparently after swimming in local public pools, Jackson County health officials said Friday.

One adult and four children ages — to 7 have developed confirmed cases of the diarrheal illness caused by Cryptosporidia, water-borne microscopic parasites. Additional cases were reported to local doctors and more are expected to follow, said Jackson Baures, a county environmental health specialist.

&

Generally if we&

re getting reports from two offices, it could indicate a larger outbreak,&

Baures said.

People who think they might have contracted the illness should call the county&

s &

Crypto Hotline&

at 774-7867.

Health officials urged operators of more than 20 public and hotel pools throughout Ashland to boost levels of chlorine far above normal levels to kill the organism. Friday afternoon, most had complied.

&

We don&

t want to alarm the hotels, but we just wanted to give them a heads-up,&

Baures said, especially at the peak of tourist season.

Early reports from doctors indicated that many of the sickened children attended the Ashland YMCA day camp and had been swimming in the YMCA pool.

But investigators said the YMCA pool may have been only one of many public pools local kids visited during the first week of August, the suspected date of origin. The health department also checked parasite levels at the Emigrant Lake waterslides and Ashland Creek.

&

At this point, we just have no idea where it&

s coming from,&

said YMCA Executive Director Lisa Molnar, explaining several children involved at the YMCA have had diarrhea recently, but that parents and officials aren&

t sure where kids are contracting the illness. &

Everyone is so involved at so many places.&

noon Friday, the YMCA&

s saline pool had been treated and was open again, according to Molnar. Like other area pools, it had been &

shocked&

with chlorine at a level of 20 parts per million to kill the parasite known as &

crypto.&

&

That was really more being cautious and proactive,&

Molnar said.

The treatment required to closure of the pool Thursday evening and Friday morning, leaving about 50 swimmers who exercise in the pool high and dry.

&

People were actually incredibly understanding,&

Molnar said, adding the pool has never been closed by health department concerns in the past.

At the Daniel Meyer Pool in Ashland&

s Hunter Park, staffers shock-treated the pool overnight and posted signs asking anyone with recent diarrheal illness to stay out of the water. Cryptosporidium can survive for weeks in normally chlorinated pool water.

&

Actually, our levels of chlorine are normally so high that it wasn&

t a problem,&

said Leela Brightenburg, pool manager.

Cryptosporidia are microscopic parasites that live in the intestines of humans and animals. The disease is passed through contact with feces. The parasite is typically spread by swallowing small amounts of infected water. Fewer than 10 parasites can sicken a healthy person, Baures said.

The illness typically develops between two and 15 days after exposure and can last up to two weeks. Symptoms are usually stomach cramps and watery diarrhea, but can also include vomiting, fever and headache.

&

It&

s no fun to deal with at the time, but it generally resolves on its own,&

said Baures.

The illness can be more serious in people with weakened immune systems. Infected people should stay out of the water for at least two weeks after they&

re better, he added.

Staff writer Jennifer Squires

contributed to this article.