The CDC reports that the pool water parasite Cryptosporidium is causing a virtual diarrhea outbreak among swimmers, so people are advised to take precautions.
The poor hygiene measures that swimmers employ upon entering swimming pools and other similar facilities, along with the poor cleaning procedures applied in some facilities have lead to the massive increase of recreational water illnesses (RWI), that most commonly manifest themselves as episodes of diarrhea.
According to the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common cause of RWIs is a parasite called Cryptosporidium. The CDC’s data includes extensive information from the period between 2011 and 2012, when 90 RWI outbreaks have reported in the US.
The outcome of this series of outbreaks was a total of 1,788 reported cases of RWIs, that have lead 95 patients to be admitted to the hospital and one patient to die. These outbreaks spanned on 32 states and Puerto Rico. But what was truly chilling was the fact that half of these cases were caused by the Cryptosporidium parasite.
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite, that is invisible to the human eye and that lurks in water structures for extended periods of time. People get contaminated by ingesting the parasite’s cystic form, either by putting their contaminated hands in their mouths, or by ingesting contaminated food or water.
Most of the infections are related to the ingestion of contaminated water and therefore Cryptosporidiosis is regarded as a waterborne disease. The main reason why this parasite is so resistant in water is that it has a cystic form that keeps is safe from the action of chemicals that are normally used to keep the water clean.
Upon being ingested, it can escape the highly acidic pH of the stomach precisely because it can remain enclosed in the cyst until it reaches the intestine. Here it exists the cyst and it attaches itself to the intestinal wall, thus causing the diarrhea.
The risk groups for Cryptosporidiosis include children and elderly people and also those people whose immune system is affected by other diseases. If in normal cases, the symptoms do include diarrhea and abdominal pain, in these high risk patients, the could manifest as a severe diarrhea syndrome that leads to severe dehydration and malnutrition and has the potential of becoming actually life threatening to the patient.
The CDC points out that the increase in the number of RWIs is more likely the fact that people are starting to comprehend the fact that digestive symptoms are not only caused by what they eat and so they have started to associate their symptoms to visiting swimming pools as well as restaurants. Therefore, the number of reported cases has increased along with the awareness that has been observed on the matter.
In order to keep safe from Cryptosporidiosis and other RWIs, the CDC urges people to respect some simple, yet extremely valuable rules regarding swimming.
Firstly, people who have experienced diarrhea as much as two week prior to the day of swimming, are advised to stay out of the pool, because they could contaminate the pool water upon entering.
Secondly, the CDC advises people to take showers before entering the pool, so that they do not contaminate the water with urine and fecal matter. Also, it is recommended that people take showers after exiting the pool as well.
Thirdly, swimmers are strongly advised not to urinate in the pool water. Bathroom breaks should be taken after every 60 minutes. And children should be closely observed in order to prevent this.
Fourthly, the CDC urges people to do their best not to swallow the pool water, so as to minimize the chance of infection.
If these simple rules are applied, swimming pools and other recreational water facilities can be kept safe and the number of RWIs could be lowered significantly.
Image Source: allianceforwaterefficiency.org