Summer is peak season for cryptosporidiosis exposure in recreational water sources. Crypto — short for cryptosporidiosis — is a parasite that causes watery diarrhea, usually occurring two to 10 days following exposure.
In addition to other risk factors, crypto can spread in recreational water settings when swimmers ingest water contaminated by another swimmer with diarrhea.
Crypto’s high tolerance to chlorine enables the parasite to survive for long periods of time in chlorinated water. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of all outbreaks linked to pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds are caused by crypto.
One-third of treated recreational waterborne disease outbreaks in the U.S. between 2000 and 2014 occurred in hotel pools or hot tubs, according to a recent CDC report. Leading causes of swimming-hole illnesses are crypto, a parasite tough enough to survive even in properly maintained pools, and pseudomonas and legionella, apair of bacteria that can survive disinfectants in slimy areas of hot tubs, pools and water playgrounds.
The CDC report describes mixed progress in preventing outbreaks caused by germs spread through treated recreational water. The 493 outbreaks reported during the 15-year period resulted in at least 27,219 illnesses and eight deaths.
The number of respiratory disease outbreaks caused by legionella increased over time, and skin infection outbreaks caused by pseudomonas decreased over time. Diarrheal disease outbreaks caused by crypto leveled off between 2008 through 2014.
More than half of outbreaks started in the summer, the peak season for swimming. Here are a few tips to help you protect yourself and others from crypto:
- Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
- Don’t swallow water you are swimming in.
- Rinse off in the shower before swimming to help remove germs from your body that could contaminate the water.
- Take kids on bathroom breaks often, and check diapers in a diaper-changing area – not right next to the pool.
For more information, visit the DCD website.