Anytime you go swimming, you run the risk of coming into contact with urine, fecal matter, and other germs. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a new report last week about a specific parasite that spreads prolifically in your favorite summer hangout: the pool.
It’s called Cryptosporidium or “Crypto” and causes the condition cryptosporidiosis — a “profuse, watery diarrhea” that can last up to three weeks, according to the report. Out of the 444 outbreaks in 2009-2017, 7,465 people fell ill. Some of these cases occurred through contact with cattle or in childcare settings, but the largest percentage (35.1%) traced back to contaminated pool water.
What’s more, Crypto can survive in chlorinated water for more than a week at a time. The parasite spreads when an infected person excretes while swimming and then other pool goers accidentally swallow some of the contaminated H20 (ick). As you can imagine, the number of cases especially soars in the summer when crowds flock to pools, water parks, and splash pads, as well as lakes, rivers, and ponds.
“The number of treated recreational water–associated outbreaks caused by Cryptosporidium drives the summer seasonal peak in both waterborne cryptosporidiosis outbreaks and cryptosporidiosis outbreaks overall,” the CDC says.
So … what can you do? Start with research. “If you’re worried about a restaurant’s [ratings] … it’s the same thing with pools since you’re putting your body in that water,” Michele Hlavsa, chief of the Health Swimming Program at the CDC, told ABC News in 2015. She recommends checking to see if your pool posted their most recent inspection through the health department before diving in.
The CDC also recommends the following:
- Do not swim if you have diarrhea.
- Do not swim for at least two weeks after diarrhea has resolved.
- Do not swallow water from pools or untreated lakes, rivers, and ponds.
- At the pool, take young children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check their diapers every 30–60 minutes.
- Do not let your your kids attend childcare if ill with diarrhea.
- Always wash your hands after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before and after caring for someone who is ill with diarrhea.
Following these precautions can reduce both your own risk of contracting cryptosporidiosis and help prevent the spread of the disease to others.