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Health officials have shut down a public pool in northern Saskatchewan after four people got sick from a parasite.

That's because officials say people may have been exposed to the parasite at the Frank J. Dunn swimming pool and the Kinsmen Water Park in Prince Albert.

Dr. Khami Chokani, regional medical officer of health for the Parkland Health Region, says the swimming pool, whirlpool and tot pool at the water park may not be the source of cryptosporidium.

But the doctor says the common thread between three of the four people who have tested positive for the parasite are the pools, so the city and health region closed the pools as a precaution.

Chokani said the cases were first reported on Wednesday and Thursday.

The health region says anyone who used either facility between late April and last week may have been exposed to the parasite that can cause "serious gastrointestinal illness."

After exposure, it can take from two to 25 days to show symptoms of the illness, which include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and headaches.

It is spread through contact with feces or a person or animal with the parasite. The parasite can live in the bowels of humans and animals. Chokani said the parasite is also sexually transmitted.

He said the three out of four lab-confirmed cases connected to the pools may sound like a small number, but in the instance of the cryptosporidium outbreak in North Battleford in 2001, for one positive case, there were 285 clinical cases.

"And to make it even more complicated, around about 60 to 70 per cent of the people who are infected with it will have no signs or symptoms at all — and will be spreading it," Chokani said.

To prevent the spread of the parasite — outside of the closure of the pools — Chokani urged residents to be diligent with their hand washing. Cryptosporidium is resistant to chlorine and to alcohol-based sanitizers.

The city said in a separate statement that drinking water is not affected and is safe to drink.