‘Crypto’ Bacteria In Public Swimming Pools, CDC Warns

Photo by Mario Gogh on Unsplash

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report Friday indicating that people should become wary when swimming in public pools as they may contract unwanted bacteria. The CDC report comes as the summer season sets in.

The bacteria in layman’s term “crypto” is a fecal parasite that can be transmitted via swimming pools, which is prone to attack vulnerable individuals, especially children, and pregnant women.

Crypto or Cryptosporidium is a parasite that causes cryptosporidiosis — profuse, watery diarrhea that can last up to 3 weeks in healthy human bodies. But it can lead to life-threatening malnutrition and wasting in immunocompromised patients. Furthermore, Cryptosporidium is the leading cause of outbreaks of diarrhea linked to water and the third leading cause of diarrhea associated with animal contact in the United States.

The CDC warns that the bacteria can be transmitted by accidentally drinking or by only getting in contact with the water from contaminated swimming pools, or with drinking water, through food, or contact with an infected person or animal.

The US CDC cited the following reasons that brought upon the warning:

  • Between 2009 and 2017, there were 444 cryptosporidiosis outbreaks reported in 40 states and Puerto Rico.
  • The outbreaks resulted in 7,465 people falling ill.
  • Recreational water — mostly swimming pools, but also kiddie pools and water playgrounds — were responsible for 156, more than a third of the cases.
  • Untreated water (such as lakes) and drinking water caused 22 more cases.
  • Eighty-six cases involved contact with animals, mostly cattle.
  • Another 57 cases were associated with child care settings.
  • Twenty-two cases were foodborne, most involving unpasteurized milk or apple cider.
  • Most cases were reported in July and August, and 2016 was a peak year for outbreaks with more than 80.
  • The number of cases increased by an average of 12.8% annually between 2009 and 2017.

“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,” according to a statement from the US CDC.

Summer months July and August were found to have the highest occurrence of waterborne diseases, including crypto-related conditions. Waterborne includes transmission occurred via ingestion, inhalation, contact, or another exposure to water (e.g., treated or untreated recreational water, drinking water [including bottled water], or an environmental or indeterminate water source). 

Notably, the CDC also warned that the fecal bacteria could survive upwards of 7 days once in highly chlorinated water, which can be above normal suggested levels. In other words, a public swimming pool is as prone to transmit the bacteria as with untreated bodies of waters such as lakes.

Furthermore, people or children pre-exposed to the bacteria and directly swim in a public pool can worsen the situation as it would contribute to the crypto concentration.

According to a survey released last month by the Water Quality & Health Council, 24% of Americans say they’d jump in a swimming pool within an hour of having diarrhea.

Additionally, the issue is albeit talked about in social media. Specifically on Twitter, when users started talking about implementing proper hygiene before swimming in a pool. Users said that parents should let their children wash themselves properly first before going into the pool.

In a tweet by a user named lily or @etoilejk, she warned not to get in hotel pools with Caucasians swimming in them as a reaction to the slew of comments in a post.

According to the comments, they assumed that the summer season is a childhood tradition of making any activity that gets them wet as a reason that equates to getting a regular shower. Meaning, they would casually allow children, and maybe themselves, get into a pool without cleaning themselves regardless of where they came from or what they did.

Consequentially, exposing themselves to public pool bacteria, contaminating the pool, and ultimately exposing others to more risks of contracting bacteria.

In light of the situation, the CDC recommends not swimming in pools to prevent cryptosporidiosis outbreaks and hand wash after contact with animals.

Furthermore, parents should attend childcare if ill with diarrhea and use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect surfaces in child care settings to inactivate Cryptosporidium oocysts. Parents should also not allow their children to go swimming for an additional two weeks after diarrhea has resolved.

For cases where a cryptosporidiosis outbreak occurs, the CDC recommends substantial decontamination measures, including hyperchlorinating public, treated recreational water venues (e.g., at a hotel, apartment complex, or waterpark).

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