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Cryptosporidiosis and Pool Safety


By: Melody Rabor-Dizon


Summer is finally here! Everybody’s heading to the pool for a refreshing dip, enjoying the sun while kids are having a splash in the water. Not long after, everybody is asked to get out of the pool because a baby pooped in the play area of the community pool. I remember the days as if it were yesterday.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 78.9% of routine inspections of public swimming facilities identified at least one violation. And one in eight inspections led to immediate closure because of a “serious threat to public health.”

Michele Hlavsa, the chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, urges us to look for the facility’s inspection results online, and do your own inspection before diving in.


The first step on the CDC’s checklist is to test the pH of the water (should be between 7.2 and 7.8). Cited as the number one problem by inspectors is the water’s pH, maintaining a proper pH is critical for controlling bacteria and preventing outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses.

The second most common type of violation was related to safety equipment (think rescue rings and poles) meant to minimize drowning risk. Especially if there’s no lifeguard on duty, locate the rescue ring or pole so you know it’s available, just in case anyone gets into trouble.

And the third most frequent issue was the concentration of disinfectant present in the water. The level needs to be precise to keep the water clean without causing side effects, such as eye irritation. And that can be serious business: The CDC points out that health problems associated with pool chemicals (such as burns and breathing difficulties) send thousands of people to the ER each year.

Choose pool places that you’re aware have high standards of hygiene. Know their policies and procedures in maintaining public pool safety. This is important for everyone but especially so for those who are more susceptible to diseases. “People who are immunocompromised need to be vigilant about these things.

Make sure that you can see the drain in the deep end. That’s a good indicator of the visibility in the water. The clearer it is, the easier it is for others to see you if you need help. Also check that the drain covers are secure and in good shape, because a loose or broken cover can trap swimmers underwater, according to the CDC.

CDC is warning about an illness that’s on the rise that can be spread via contaminated pool water. The illness is called cryptosporidiosis, and you can pick it up by swimming in a pool contaminated by someone who had diarrhea recently.

What is cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidiosis is caused by a parasite called Cryptosporidium. The way a person can get cryptosporidiosis is…. I don’t want to be graphic but per Director of Infectious diseases in Mt Sinai New York, “It is basically fecal-oral transmission. Feces to oral intake is [the] number one cause,” So if someone who has had diarrhea for the past few days jumps into a neighborhood pool, remnants of that diarrhea could float in the pool and infect other swimmers. You better believe it.

Most people who get cryptosporidiosis only get a mild form of the illness. Their symptoms might include diarrhea and some abdominal discomfort. But some people will develop a more severe form of cryptosporidiosis, namely those who have weakened immune systems (technically called “immunosuppressed”). They will experience diarrhea for longer than those who are otherwise healthy. The CDC says cryptosporidiosis-induced diarrhea can last for three weeks for immunocompromised people. So if you know anyone who has had diarrhea during the past few days, he/she shouldn’t dive in just yet, since that could transmit the illness to someone whose body isn’t well equipped to fight it off.

That just about cleared up my speculations of pool’s hygienic nature. Other than avoiding pools altogether, that’s pretty much your only option.

So folks, there’s a reason your mom warned you not to drink the pool water when you were a kid—and hopefully you listened. Otherwise- eeeek. Stay safe and enjoy summer our avid readers.

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