by: Gary Horcher Updated:
SEATTLE - The kids’ wading pool in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park was shut-down and cleaned Friday, after eleven children were struck with symptoms of norovirus.
The children, ranging in age from six to seven, played in the shallow pool on Tuesday between 11AM and 1PM as part of a day-camp run by The Community School of West Seattle. On Wednesday, the school’s director began hearing from parents. “We’ve never had so many children begin vomiting all at once,” said Sarah Airhart, of the Community School. “We immediately looked into what the children were doing, to rule things out,” she said.
Airhart ruled out the food they ate, and the playground equipment they used. The children who shared the terrible symptoms had one thing in common. “It was discovered that all of those children were the ones fully submerged in the water,” Airhart said. “They put their face in the water, they got drenched, and the only sick child who was not submerged, put his hand in the water, then ate chips.”
Norovirus is rarely reported in chlorinated pools. It's highly contagious, spread by mouth contact with fecal matter or vomit of someone who is contagious. The Lincoln Park staff regularly tests and chlorinates the water in the pool, according to a Seattle Parks spokesperson. On Tuesday, tests showed the water was at safe levels for chlorine.
The frustrating part for Airhart is the reaction time of the park. “I called to warn the park on Thursday. I tried doing the same with the Health Department,” she said. “The parks still haven’s retuned my call.”
On Friday at 11AM, the Seattle/King County Health Department called Lincoln Park staff, and they immediately shut the wading pool, drained it, and scrubbed it with chlorine—along with every other surface children might have handled.
Airhart believes other children who played in the wading pool on Tuesday morning could be at risk. She hopes parents who share her concern will call the Health Department.
On Monday, the children will be tested to find out if they are infected with norovirus—or something else.
“I’ve had norovirus,” Airhart said. “It’s awful, and it lasts for days.”