#schoolsafety | University of Michigan pools reopen after 10 illnesses stemming from fecal matter

ANN ARBOR, MI – All four pools in the University of Michigan’s Canham Natatorium and two others have reopened after 10 confirmed cased of Cryptosporidium closed them down earlier this month.

The Washtenaw County Health Department confirmed the cases of Cryptosporidium, a germ found in fecal matter causing diarrhea.

Following reports of the common waterborne illness, the university worked with the UM Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) office on a thorough set of procedures to test and clean the water at Canham Natatorium, UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.

The germ was discovered and treated first on Sept. 30. On Oct. 10, EHS deemed the pool safe to use and the teams returned to normal training. Following two independent lab tests, EHS reaffirmed that Canham Natatorium was safe for competition on Oct. 15, Fitzgerald said.

Two other pools at UM’s Central Campus Recreation Center and another pool in the recreation center on UM’s North Campus also have been treated and reopened, Fitzgerald said.

Washtenaw County Health Department Community Health Promotion Manager Susan Ringler Cerniglia said when the pools were closed, they were cleaned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “shocking” the water by raising the level of chlorine before normalizing them.

“The problem is, this parasite is pretty resistant to (treatment),” Ringler Cerniglia said.

She said symptoms of Cryptosporidium can come and go, making it more likely for those exposed to infect others. She said those who are diagnosed with Cryptosporidium are urged not to swim for two weeks after their diagnosis.

According to the health department, Cryptosporidium has a tough outer shell that allows it to survive for a long time in harsh environments. It can survive for days even in properly chlorinated pools.

It is one of the most common causes of recreational water illness in the United States and can cause prolonged diarrhea for one to two weeks, according to the health department. Young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to the illness.

It is spread by swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter containing Cryptosporidium. Swallowing even a small amount of pool water that has been contaminated with the germ can make you sick.

Because of the confirmed cases at UM, the pools at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School and Skyline High School also were closed this past week, although Ringler Cerniglia said she was not aware of any illnesses stemming from the use of those pools.

UM’s swimming and diving team tweeted the germ caused Tennessee and Virginia’s swim teams to pull out of a weekend meet over concerns of the safety of its pools.

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