05 January 2021

Recreational water users warned of disease risk

As the weather warms up, recreational water users are being warned to take precautions to avoid potentially fatal disease risks.

Managing Scientist, Richard Theobald said it was important for anyone recreating in water to ensure that the water was properly treated and maintained to avoid the risk of catching amoebic meningitis.

He said the rare but potentially fatal disease could be contracted when recreational water contaminated, with the amoeba Naegleria fowleri is forced up the nose. Once in the nasal cavity it can travel into the brain where it can cause severe damage.

“Amoeba thrives in fresh warm water in temperatures between 28 degrees and 40 degrees,” Mr Theobald said.

“Pool and spa owners should closely monitor, and check chlorine levels are within a safe range. Owners using pool covers may also need to check their water more frequently as the covers may cause water temperatures to rise more quickly.

“Wading pools should be changed after each use as this water provides the perfect environment for the amoeba to grow.

“Care should also be taken when recreating in fresh water dams and rivers.”

Mr Theobald said the risk of amoebic meningitis could be reduced by taking some simple precautions including:

  • staying out of dirty pools, spas, waterholes and dams
  • ensuring pools are kept clean, free of dirt and leaves, and are properly chlorinated
  • testing water in swimming pools at least twice a day
  • making sure pools that do not use a stabiliser contain at least two milligrams per litre of chlorine (four milligrams per litre where a stabiliser is used)
  • ensuring pH levels are kept between 7.2 and 7.6
  • keeping wading pools clean and only using the water once.
  • flushing garden hoses before playing in the water.

Information about amoebic meningitis is available through local government environmental health officers, WA Health’s Environmental Health Service on 9222 2000, and on the Healthy WA website www.healthywa.wa.gov.au


Media contact: 9222 4333

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