Swimmers are being warned to avoid ocean beaches following rain, and parents asked to keep sick children away from school, after a steep rise in severe diarrhoea cases across the state.
There have been almost 500 cases of cryptosporidiosis – a disease caused by a parasite which infects the intestine and can lead to severe diarrhoea in young children – in NSW since the beginning of the year, a sharp rise from the five-year average of 95 for the same time period.
Cryptosporidiosis is commonly caught when swimming in water infected with the Cryptosporidium parasite.
Health Protection NSW head Dr Jeremy McAnulty said half of all cases have been in children under 10 years old. He urged parents to be especially vigilant about where and when they let their children swim.
“The parasite survives for many days, even in chlorinated pools, and in the past very large outbreaks have been caused by people who had recently been infected going swimming,” he said. “With many schools about to hold swimming carnivals, we’re urging parents to stay alert for symptoms.”
Children who have had diarrhoea should be kept at home until their symptoms have completely stopped, and avoid swimming or sharing towels for at least two weeks.
With cases on the rise, the wider public is being asked to avoid swimming at ocean beaches for at least a day after heavy rain, and wait at least three days before swimming in estuaries and inland waterways.
NSW Health also recommends avoiding swallowing water while swimming, washing your hands, and treating water before drinking it. (A rolling boil is enough to kill Cryptosporidium in untreated water).
Most beaches in Sydney were suitable for swimming on Tuesday, with the state government’s Beachwatch portal forecasting pollution was “unlikely” for most beaches in the city’s east and north.