Don't drink the water! Diarrhea from US swimming pools rising

Faith Castro
May 19, 2017

As warm weather approaches, USA health officials are warning that outbreaks of diarrhoea caused by swallowing swimming pool water containing parasites have doubled in the past few years.

Big outbreaks in 2016 included one in Arizona that sickened an entire Little League team and a cluster of outbreaks in OH that started in a water park and spread to nearby pools, contributing to almost 2,000 cases statewide, adding to details published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In 2016, at least 32 Cryptosporidium outbreaks were reported to the CDC, compared with 16 in 2014.

Arizona last year reported that 352 people became sick with Cryptosporidiosis from July through October, compared with no more than 62 cases per year from 2011 to 2015.

In Ohio, the average number of cases was just under 400 for many years but spiked to 1,940 cases in 2016, the CDC team said.

While the CDC is certainly not making a Jaws-like announcement, agency officials still issued their summertime caution.

CDC officials said they don't know if the rise in Crypto outbreaks is due to more infections or better reporting techniques.

Either way, the Crypto parasite is definitely one to avoid.

"Young swimmers aged under 5 years are more likely to contaminate the water because they are more likely to have inadequate toileting and hygiene skills; therefore, prevention efforts should focus on their parents", the CDC team wrote in their report.

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In a pool or water park, swallowing contaminated water is the easiest way to get infected. Infections can cause watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting, and can lead to dehydration. It is the most common cause of diarrheal illness and outbreaks linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds.

Experts say Crypto is not easily killed by chlorine and can live up to 10 days in well-treated pools.

The system helps states detect and control outbreaks by identifying which types of Cryptoare infecting people.

The CDC is also urging everyone to do their part in preventing the spread of germs in swimming pools and other recreational water.

The CDC said that if a person has diarrhea by crypto, they should wait until two weeks after the diarrhea has stopped to go to a pool or water playground.

Take kids on bathroom breaks often, and check diapers in a diaper-changing area and not right next to the pool. "Showering before swimming, refraining from peeing in the pool, and not swimming for two weeks after experiencing diarrhea can help keep swimming fun and healthy for everyone from "water babies" to seniors".

Hawkinson noted the CDC advice is useful, but he added that even with precautions there's still a chance of getting sick.

"There's a lot of seasonal staff at these public venues, and they need to be properly educated before they're out there doing pool maintenance", Li said.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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