When we think of ‘summer’ we’re often flooded with images of long sunny days, bar-b-ques with friends, and lounging by the pool. But health officials warn outbreaks linked to the fecal ‘crypto’ parasite often spread in swimming pools is on the rise. Its full name is Cryptosporidium and it is contracted by swallowing water contaminated with the parasite.
What Happens If I Contract Cryptosporidium?
All it takes is swallowing a tiny amount of contaminated pool water. Then the parasite travels to your small intestine causing watery diarrhea that can last up to 3 weeks. It can also cause stomach cramping, vomiting, and dehydration. This can be especially concerning for pregnant women and children. Over a period of 8 years, a total of 444 cryptosporidiosis outbreaks occurred nationwide. This lead to over 7,400 reported cases – a number the CDC says has increased by about 13% each year.
So, while you may laugh at the pool signs warning you to stay out of the pool if you’ve recently had diarrhea, but there is a very good reason for this. Cryptosporidiosis can be life-threatening for those with compromised immune systems if they do not get proper treatment. Though this is rarely fatal, there has been one death related to the parasite since 2009. So if diarrhea doesn’t improve within a few days, it’s best to make a trip to the doctor.
Can I Just Treat My Pool?
You may be thinking that as long as you stay on top of your spa care you’ll be in the clear. Well, unfortunately, cryptosporidium can live in pools for up to seven days because it is extremely chlorine tolerant. And, it’s not just the public pool you’ve got to worry about. The parasite can be found in kiddie pools, water playgrounds, and lakes. It is contagious and you can even contract it from infected animals.
Ok, So What Can I Do?
- Limit – limit swimming activities, especially in swimming pools or lakes.
- Wash – wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. This is especially true if you handle animals or newborns.
- Avoid – do not go swimming or to daycare/school if you or your child has had diarrhea for up to two weeks after it subsides.