A new report from the CDC finds 69 waterborne disease outbreaks over a two-year period. There were 1,300 known patients, 73 admissions and one death. Most cases involved pools and hot tubs and a very specific parasite known as cryptosporidium.
Cooling in the pool or spending the day at a water park are classic summer activities, but public health officials warn that there are parasites lurking in municipal water that even chlorine cannot kill.
In a well-chlorinated pool, the Giardia parasite can survive for up to 45 minutes and the hepatitis A virus can survive for approx. 16 minutes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A parasite called cryptosporidium or crypto can survive for more than a week, even in a properly treated pool or water park, according to epidemiologist Michele Hlavsa.
Exposure to crypt in pools and playgrounds caused 4,232 diseases from 2009 to 2017 according to a report released Thursday by the CDC. People, especially children who swim too soon after having diarrhea, can spread the parasite.
"Unlike perhaps norovirus or E. coli, which causes diarrhea or vomiting for some days, you can get diarrhea caused by crypto for up to three weeks," says Hlavsa, one of the study's authors. "It is not fun."
The number of diseases caused by crypto associated with "treated recreational water" peaks from June to August and has risen 14.3% each year from 2009 to 2016, according to the CDC. The report noted that these findings are likely to underestimate the actual number of cryptic outbreaks. Study: Half of Americans have used swimming pools as an alternative to shower
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"To protect us from crypt, the best we can do is not to swallow the water we swim in, "said Hlavsa. "We want to keep the crypt out of the pool in the first place and the way we do is not to swim or let our child swim when we are sick with diarrhea."
CDC advises anyone who has had diarrhea to wait at least two weeks before entering a pool, but a new study showed that 24% of respondents would go into a pool within an hour of having diarrhea.
This study, presented by the Water Quality and Health Council, found that 40% of Americans admitted that they had been urinated in a pool as an adult. Although you cannot catch crypt from urine, it reacts with chlorine and reduces the amount of chemicals available to kill other pathogens.
The Water Quality and Health Council is a group sponsored by the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council, an industry association.
About eight out of 10 pool inspections find a serious health code violation according to the CDC. Of the eight, at least one inspection will result in the pool closing immediately.
Hlavsa recommended to go online and check inspection scores at the local or state health department's website before entering a pool or swimmers doing their own inspection when they arrive.
"We call this a mini-inspection where you use test strips to control the chlorine level and pH before entering," she said. "We who swim or parents of young swimmers must play a more active role in ensuring that we have fun and healthy and safe time in the water this summer."
Contributing: Micah Walker, Detroit Free Press
Follow Neah Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
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