Poop in Pools: Outbreaks of Parasite on Rise

Angie Massey
May 19, 2017

As we head into the peak swimming season, USA health officials are warning that outbreaks of diarrhea caused by swallowing swimming pool water containing parasites have doubled in the past few years.

Here's how the crypto parasite spreads: "If someone has a diarrhea incident in the water, and someone else comes around and swallows that contaminated water, it spreads", said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC's Healthy Swimming Program. Crypto infection causes diarrhea, cramps, nausea and vomiting.

Scientists say it's not clear if the number of outbreaks has increased or if detection methods have improved.

Have a ball at the swimming pool, but don't swallow the water, just swim in it.

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"Normal chlorine disinfection of swimming pool water does a great job in destroying most germs, but Crypto presents a special challenge", said Dr. Chris Wiant, chair of the Water Quality and Health Council. While urine does not cause illness directly, it depletes chlorine levels, giving germs a better chance to survive.

Cryptosporidium, or crypto, is a parasite that has been linked to pools and water parks.

Don't swallow the water while swimming.

The CDC also recommends that parents make sure young people shower before they get into the water. The only way to ensure the health of the water once its been infected is to close the pool and treat it with extremely high levels of chlorine that are risky for humans to swim in.

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This as a new survey finds 25-percent of adults would swim within one hour of having diarrhea.

Don't change kids' diapers near the pool. Those outbreaks highlight the ongoing challenges that treated recreational water venues have with Crypto due to how hard it is to kill and the small number of germs that can make people sick.

Arizona reported 352 lab-confirmed cases between July and October 2016, compared with a maximum 62 cases detected annually in years prior.

OH was one of the most heavily-infected states, according to the CDC, with 1,940 people falling ill due to the infection in 2016 compared to less than 600 in any previous year.

CDC is working to upgrade CryptoNet with more advanced DNA fingerprinting techniques.

WSB-TV investigated the measures some pool workers in the Atlanta metro area are taking to make sure they have a healthy swimming season.

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.

Other reports by GizPress

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