Two Contracted Astrovirus After Visiting Iowa Splash Pad, Parent Says

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An Iowa mother said her son, as well as a friend, had contracted an astrovirus infection after playing at a local splash pad. 

Des Moines resident Megan Reynolds told WHO-TV that she and her son Fletcher had gone to a splash pad in city of Johnston, Iowa, on June 2, and about two days after, the boy started to experience illness. 

“He started to develop symptoms that Monday and started to get a high fever and vomiting, then we noticed he was getting worse,” Reynolds said. Fletcher was taken to the emergency room over the weekend and diagnosed with the astrovirus.

Reynolds told WHO-TV that the nurses at the hospital said other children had come in with symptoms that indicated the illness.

Astrovirus, like norovirus, is a fecal virus. This type of virus, which was discovered by electron microscopes in the 1970s, is spread from person to person, and by contact with stool. It can be spread on surfaces or through food or water.

Chlorine can kill the virus. Public splash pads can be particularly susceptible to the spread of astrovirus due to children’s habits of sitting or squatting over spray features, WHO-TV reported. 

Reynolds realized a connection on the morning of June 13 when her friend told her that she was experiencing the same symptoms as her son.

“I realized talking to one of my girlfriends, she had the same symptoms and she didn’t know what was wrong with her. And then we realized she was at the splash pad one day before us, so we connected the dots and called the city of Johnston,” said Reynolds, whose son is now recovering at home.

The city shut down the splash pad in the Johnston Town Center for several hours on the afternoon of June 13.

“So we’re pretty confident that the water itself is not the issue,” John Schmitz, Johnston’s Parks and Recreation director, told WHO-TV. “So with that, knowing the virus that her child had is an astrovirus, it’s something that sticks to surfaces. So we’re going to make sure that the entire aquatic center area here with the splash pad is disinfected, including the concrete floor and the restrooms adjacent to it.”

Schmitz said the splash pad uses single-use water, which comes directly from the city and not a specific filtration system that would cycle the water back and forth. He told the news station that if the water supply had been affected, the city would have already known about the virus.

Though the city is not positive the virus was contracted at the splash pad, the facility was cleaned and disinfected out of an abundance of caution. It reopened just after 3 p.m. on June 13.

The city of Johnston’s water was also being tested, to see if the virus had spread.

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