Department of Health

Victorians warned on gastro bug (Archived content)

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

A three-fold rise in the number of cases of gastroenteritis caused by the cryptosporidium parasite has prompted an urgent warning on the importance of good personal hygiene.

There were 155 cases of cryptosporidiosis reported across Victoria in February, compared with a five-year February average of 53.

The cryptosporidium parasite is found in the faeces of humans, cattle and other animals.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, said there was a link between the increase in notifications and the recent spate of hot weather which saw large numbers of people seek relief at their local swimming pools.

“The condition is caused by swallowing the parasite, with symptoms including watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps and vomiting,” Dr Lester said.

“The symptoms are generally mild but can cause more serious problems for people whose immune system is already weakened by disease, as well as the elderly and young children.

“Cryptosporidiosis is typically caused by swallowing contaminated water, household contact with a case and contact with farm animals.

“The cryptosporidium parasite cannot be killed by normal levels of chlorination so we are working with swimming pool owners to implement extra measures which will kill the parasite. We also urge people who have had diarrhoea not to go into a swimming pool for at least 14 days after symptoms have ceased.

“In addition, people need to shower with soap before swimming and practise good personal hygiene to prevent passing on gastro to others.”

Swimming pools are at particularly high risk as a result of:

  • infected individuals swimming
  • faecal accidents by infected swimmers. Toddlers (particularly those who are not toilet trained) are at high risk for accidental faecal contamination of the pool
  • changing of nappies next to a pool.

If a faecal accident occurs in a swimming pool this should be brought to the attention of the staff at the swimming pool.

Anyone with severe diarrhoea should see their doctor for advice.

Further information about cryptosporidium can be found on the Better Health ChannelExternal Link website.

Reviewed 07 March 2013


Contact details

Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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