A new government report has found that parasites and bacteria in hotel pools and hot tubs were responsible for nearly a third of all disease outbreaks in the United States linked to chlorinated or treated water between 2000 and 2014. “During that 15-year period, a total of 493 outbreaks linked to treated recreational water were reported in 46 states and Puerto Rico…”1
In total, the outbreaks caused at least 27,219 illnesses and eight deaths according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
- 58% of the outbreaks were caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium, commonly called Crypto, which is able to survive in well-maintained pools and can give swimmers gastrointestinal illness and diarrhea.2
- at least six of the eight deaths and 16% of the illnesses could be attributed to bacterial Legionella, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, a severe pneumonia, and Pontiac fever, a milder flu-like illness.3
- and Pseudomonas, which can cause folliculitis (“hot tub rash”) and otitis externa (“swimmers’ ear”), sickened nearly 13% of those enjoying recreational waters. 4
Both Legionella and Pseudomonas are able to withstand disinfectants and Crypto can live for days even after chlorine has been added. And while Crypto is a little more difficult to kill, most people with a healthy immune system don’t need treatment even if they become sick.
So, what are you supposed to do this summer if you find yourself in a public pool? According to Michele Hlavsa, lead author of the report and chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program,
“The advice is pretty standard no matter who you are. Once in the water, don’t drink the water you swim in. Also, before you get into the water, check out the inspection score.”5
Hlavsa also recommends you check the water yourself; pool supply stores and big box stores sell inexpensive test strips, which test for chlorine and pH and if the levels are unsafe, don’t swim.
Basically, if you have diarrhea, stay out of the water. And if the pool or hot tube you are in has had Crypto, stay out of the water for at least two weeks. But by all means, go swimming. Just be smart and safe.