Illnesses caused by Cryptosporidium, a fecal chlorine-resistant parasite found in swimming pools, have steadily been on the rise.
Outdoor swimming pools are a great way to exercise and cool off during the summer, but unfortunately they can be a host for germs, parasites, bacteria, and other pathogens that can cause illness, infection, and disease.
Cryptosporidium, a chlorine-resistant parasite that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach cramps, is the cause of 80 percent of pool waterborne disease outbreaks. Outbreaks of an intestinal illness called cryptosporidiosis, caused by the parasite cryptosporidium, increased by approximately 13 percent each year from 2009 to 2017, causing over 7,000 people to experience diarrhea and vomiting, according to a 2018 Center for Disease Control and Prevention report.
From 2000 to 2014, 493 recreational waterborne disease outbreaks were reported – causing over 27,000 illnesses and at least eight deaths – according to the CDC report.
To avoid illness health officials encourage swimmers to try to avoid swallowing pool water, especially young children who tend to swallow more water and have weaker immune systems.
Protecting yourself and others from waterborne illness involves taking measures to avoid introducing bacteria into the water. Showering for at least 60-seconds before getting into a pool can remove many of the bacteria, sweat, dirt, oil, and products like deodorant that diminish chlorine-based disinfectant’s power to keep the water clean.
Stay out of the pool if you’ve had a gastrointestinal-infection or diarrhea in the last two-weeks. Cryptosporidium spreads via contaminated feces and can live in pools with adequate chlorine levels for up to 10 days. Fecal matter particles on the body not only spread disease, but weaken chlorine’s germ-fighting abilities, thereby increasing the likelihood of a waterborne disease outbreak.
A pool that smells heavily of chlorine is a sign that the pool is not safe to swim in. When germs, dirt, and body cells combine with the chlorine in pools and degrade the disinfecting power of chlorine, the result is pungent chloramines, which can get into the air and create a chemical smell.
Common recreational waterborne illnesses to be aware of are: diarrheal illness, swimmer’s ear, respiratory infection, and urinary-tract infection. Always see your doctor if you suspect you have contracted one of these illnesses.
The best way to protect yourself and others from waterborne illness is preventative action to stop bacteria from entering the water. Always shower before and after swimming, do not swim if sick or within two weeks of being sick, avoid swallowing pool water, and avoid defecation and urination in pools.