The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that recreational water-associated outbreaks of intestinal infectious diseases are on the rise in the United States. The most common cause of these outbreaks is Cryptosporidium, a parasite which is extremely tolerant of the usual concentrations of chlorine recommended for use in swimming pools and water parks. Since 2004, the yearly number of reported Cryptosporidium outbreaks has tripled.
After an incubation period of 2-10 days, Cryptosporidium typically causes profuse, watery diarrhea, which can last several days to several weeks in people with normal immune systems, and life-threatening malabsorption and muscle wasting in immunocompromised individuals. Stomach pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting, and dehydration and weight loss can also occur. Almost two years ago, The PediaBlog discovered these Fast Facts about “Crypto”:
- More than 1 in 5 (21.6%) of American adults do not know swimming while ill with diarrhea can heavily contaminate water in which we swim and make other swimmers sick.
- Cryptosporidium (or Crypto) is an extremely chlorine-tolerant parasite that can survive in a properly chlorinated pool for 3.5–10.6 days.
In addition to holding your nose and closing your mouth before jumping into the pool this summer, Kyle Nazario has this advice for parents and swimmers of all ages to prevent Crypto and other diarrhea-causing pathogens:
• Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
• Don’t swallow the water in which you swim.
• Rinse off in the shower before getting in the water to help remove any germs on your body that could contaminate the water.
• Take kids on bathroom breaks often, and check diapers in a diaper-changing area and not right next to the pool.
The CDC adds this important advice:
The key healthy swimming message to the public to prevent contamination is “Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.” Health care providers should also instruct cryptosporidiosis patients not to go back into the water until they have been diarrhea-free for 2 weeks.
Two final recommendations: Rinse off in the shower after swimming and wash hands before handling food and eating.
Hopefully these tips will ensure a healthy summer poolside for you and your family.