By Lance Mihm
Three swimming pools in Auglaize County have been closed temporarily as a precautionary measure due to an infectious disease outbreak in New Bremen.
The municipal pools in New Bremen and Minster, as well as the pool at the YMCA between the two villages, were closed Wednesday after several residents in the New Bremen area reported being sick with diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and nausea.
Auglaize County Health Department director Charlotte Parsons said two confirmed test results have reported the outbreak may be cryptosporidiosis, a water-borne parasite. All three pools were tested for the parasite and a report is expected on the results later today.
One child in Auglaize County was hospitalized on Wednesday, Parsons said. A third case was reported this morning by a Mercer County resident who had been in the New Bremen area, Auglaize County Sanitarian Marv Selhorst said.
Parsons said the health department was not aware of what hospital the child was in or how many total cases there may be. They did not keep track of the number of phone calls reporting the symptoms. "We have asked people who suspect they may have the illness to bring in stool samples," Parsons said. "We have only two (now three) confirmed cases, so at this point we are assuming that this is what it is."
Parsons said the disease is normally non-fatal and takes a week to 10 days to run its course.
The parasite spawns in soil and is spread to farm and other animals. People contact it from animals and then the infection is often spread person to person in swimming pool water. Auglaize County Health Department expects lab results from the three tested pools as early as noon.
"The disease was most likely spread from someone who was sick and went swimming at the pool. The common denominator between all of the people that reported they were sick is they were in the New Bremen area. There are diarrhea-causing organisms all around us," Parsons warned.
Parsons said chlorine in the pools attacks only bacterial diseases. So if it was spread through the water it was most likely the fault of someone inadvertently bringing it in.
"Parasites form a shell and are resistant to normal levels of chlorine," Parsons said. "People need to be careful about washing their hands, especially when they have been sick. Anyone who has had diarrhea should not swim in a pool where others are swimming for up to two weeks after they have gotten it out of their system.
"This most likely started from people who were sick and went swimming anyway. Now we are trying to stop it before it spreads any further," she said.
All three pools are being super-chlorinating now to get rid of the organism if it is present. Health board officials said that it will be safe to swim in the pools after they reopen. All three plan to reopen on Saturday.
Selhorst said that tests indicate the parasite showed up between Aug. 2 and 3. The health department is asking anybody who is sick with the symptoms to bring stool samples in or call. They have also asked that people sick with the symptoms not go swimming in the pools until two weeks have passed after the symptoms go away.