When you think of summer, the two things that come to mind are water and sun. Any form of recreation related to water, such as swimming, water sports, water-theme parks, hot tubs and surfing, is on the top of everyone’s summer to-do list. Nothing feels better than taking a dip in the cool water and beating the heat. But there is a menace in the pool that just might rob the fun out of summer.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a bacterium known as Cryptosporidium has been the cause of a rising number of waterborne diseases in the United States. It causes the disease Cryptosporidiosis that results in diarrhea and vomiting. The disease and the bacteria are both commonly known as Crypto.
It is quite a hardy bacterium, which can survive even in chlorinated pools. Its hardy nature is due to a shell that surrounds it and allows it to survive for a long time without a host body. It is also highly infectious and infects both animals and humans.
Commonly found in the feces, the bacteria can infect people if they swallow pool water, even a small mouthful. Even in pools treated with chemicals like chlorine and bromine, Crypto can survive several days.
Furthermore, the job of chemicals is to kill the germs but sometimes the chemicals end up destroying the sweat, urine, feces and dirt that can be found in pools. This uses up the chemical’s power to fight and kill the germs.
People who have already contracted this bacterium can further contaminate the pool for others if they go swimming. While the infection only lasts a couple of weeks, people with weak immune systems such as young children may be at greater risk for extreme reactions.
Among the outbreaks of waterborne diseases caused by treated recreational water, Crypto caused 52% of the total according to a study. There is currently no vaccine but recommended treatment includes restoring fluids lost due to vomiting and diarrhea.
The CDC also recommends some health safety basics for healthy swimming facilities and swimmers to prevent infection from Crypto:
- Don’t swallow pool water
- Shower before getting into the pool
- Take kids for bathroom breaks after every hour in the pool
- Stay out of the water if you have an upset stomach
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated
The CDC has also released a guideline known as Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) which includes safety and maintenance information for water based facilities.