Kids aren’t the only ones swarming public pools. According to a new report from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, there were 90 outbreaks in treated water — including hot tubs and pools — between 2011 and 2012. A hardy parasite known as Cryptosporidium chiefly caused the outbreaks, which led to 1,788 illnesses, 95 hospitalizations and one death.
This parasite is particularly troubling. Pool water chemistry along with proper filtration is the key to clean healthy water, as it can kill bacteria such as E. coli in minutes to hours. Cryptosporidium, however, can survive for up to 10 days in treated water, according to Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program.
“This parasite is extremely chlorine-resistant,” Hlavsa, lead author of the report, told CBS News.
In the United States, state or local agencies establish the codes that regulate recreational pools and spas. There is no nationally set standard. The CDC suggests that these variations could be leading to outbreaks.
“There are different standards and people are responding differently,” said Hlavsa. “We need a certain set of standards and it should be the same across the country.”
What’s particularly worrying about the increasing number of outbreaks is that Cryptosporidium is particularly dangerous for children.
“With these outbreaks, we see they disproportionately affect young children,” Hlavasa told ABC News. “They’re the ones who can go to a pool and young children tend to carry lots of germs.”
It takes two to three weeks to clear the parasite from the body, but if a person possesses a weakened immune system, the condition could become chronic, or even fatal, because gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea, flush the body quickly, so it isn’t able to absorb nutrients.
In order to stay protected, the CDC recommends people avoid swimming if they’ve been suffering from diarrhea, avoid swallowing the water, avoid eliminating in any way in the water, and shower prior to getting in.
“Swimming is a great way to get physical activity,” said Hlavsa. “The CDC is asking the public to do it in a healthier way.”