The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last week that it is aware of at least 32 cryptosporidium outbreaks at swimming pools and water parks within the last year. Outbreak locations include Alabama, Arizona, Ohio, as well as other states throughout the nation.
Now, with summer in full swing, the CDC is warning families to protect themselves and their children from the parasite, more commonly (and ominously) known as “crypto.” Almost 26% of homeowners report spending nine to 12 hours a day in their home, but after hearing about how this parasite is spread, the number of crypto outbreaks may just increase that percentage during peak swimming season.
Federal health experts report that people who swim either with diarrhea or too soon after recovering from it can spread this harmful parasite without even knowing it.
“The parasite can spread when people swallow something that has come into contact with the feces of a sick person, such as pool water contaminated with diarrhea,” the CDC said in a statement.
Swallowing just a mouthful of pool water contaminated with this parasite could make an otherwise healthy individual sick for up to three weeks, according to the CDC. And the highly contagious parasite can survive up to 10 days, even in treated water. That means that not even properly chlorinated pools stand a chance against this parasite if infected. In fact, it takes an especially large dose of chlorine to kill off this harmful pest.
CDC pool safety expert Michele Hlavsa and her team reported on three separate outbreaks last July and August in Arizona, Alabama, and Ohio in which people fell ill. According to their disturbing findings, at least 17% of people who became sick admitted to swimming while they were still experiencing diarrhea symptoms.
U.S. waters are already polluted with over 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater, and industrial waste every year. While that wastewater may not make it into swimming pools, human waste can.
“Young swimmers aged under 5 years are more likely to contaminate the water because they are more likely to have inadequate toileting and hygiene skills; therefore, prevention efforts should focus on their parents,” the CDC team wrote in their report.
Outbreaks last summer resulted in the closure of several water parks, including one in Alabama. The CDC is hoping swimmers will abide by their posted guidelines this season to prevent further increases in outbreaks across the nation.