Pool parasites: Crypto outbreaks on the rise
Headed to the pool or water park this weekend? Listen up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports outbreaks of diarrhea causing infections have doubled in the U.S. over the past two years. There are some steps you can take to prevent these pool parasites from ruining your day.
Last year nationwide there were 32 outbreaks of cryptosporidium also known as Crypto. Two people involved with a water park in Blount County tested positive for Crypto last year according to the state health department. The facility took quick, corrective action. A spokesperson says unfortunately, illnesses in recreational waters can occur even when systems are adequately maintained. In 2016 the Alabama Department of Health investigated six Crypto outbreaks. An outbreak is classified as two or more people from different households having the illness.
At the Hoover YMCA, the staff takes a lot of precautions to make sure the water is safe and clean. The water is checked before the pool opens each day and every three hours throughout the day. The summer sun can burn off the chlorine.
They also keep a watchful eye on the small swimmers who are especially vulnerable because they sometimes swallow water. "We monitor the little ones making sure they are showering and have the appropriate diapers on to maximize safety," explains Laysea Chasteen, Aquatics Director.
It may gross you out, but it's important to know the crypto parasite is transmitted fecal to oral. "It comes out in the feces when someone goes to the restroom. Then it's ingested orally through the water or by contaminated hands and sometimes in soil or food," says Stephanie Ayers-Millsaps, Disease Intervention Program Manager with the Jefferson County Health Department.
Prevention is key. Make sure your kids take plenty of bathroom breaks and wash their hands with soap and water. The alcohol based hand sanitizers are not effective on Crypto according to Ayers-Millsaps.
Also important to remember: shower off before getting in the pool so you don't contaminate others and shower when you get out in case you picked up something in the water.
And if you've got an upset tummy or any gastrointestinal problems stay away from the pool. "Any kind of stomach issues just don't come. It's unsafe for the other swimmers," warns Chasteen. The symptoms of a Crypto illness are nausea and vomiting that can last weeks. Report any symptoms to your doctor.
It's always good to do a visual check of a pool before diving in. "Make sure it looks clean. That is a huge factor. Make sure it is clear and you can see the bottom and the drains," advises Chasteen.
Also be wary of an overwhelming smell of chlorine which could indicate a high bacteria count. The shallower the water, like you'll find at a water park, the tougher it is to keep the chlorine levels up.
Crypto can be especially tough to kill even for facilities who are following all the recommendations. A pool may need to be "hyperchlorinated."