You might want to put your summer plans on hold as a new report published data that claims people may be more likely to get sick when swimming in a hotel pool or hot tub. You thought all the other gross things you might find in a public pool was bad.
According to a recent report published in a CDC journal titled ‘Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,’ a third of treated recreational waterborne disease outbreaks occurred in hotel pools or hot tubs. The report covered statistics of disease outbreaks between 2000 through 2014. Of the 493 outbreaks recorded in this study, approximately 27,219 illnesses and eight deaths were reported.
The report highlights three key harmful elements found in pool water that caused the most harm during the testing period. Cryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”), Pseudomonas, and Legionella caused most of the outbreaks in swimming venues in the United States. Crypto is a tough to kill parasite while the latter two are bacteria that can survive disinfectants in slimy areas of hot tubs, pools, and water parks.
“Swallowing just a mouthful of water with Crypto in it can make otherwise healthy kids and adults sick for weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting,” Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, explained, according to the report.
The Crypto parasite is also known for its resistance to chlorine—a chemical typically used to kill harmful bacteria commonly found in pools. According to the report, 58% of outbreaks in pools and hot tubs and 89% of illnesses were linked back to Crypto.
“Chlorine cannot kill Crypto quickly. We need to keep it out of the water in the first place. Don’t go into the water, and don’t let your kids go into the water, if sick with diarrhea.”
The bacteria Legionella and Pseudomonas are the next most leading causes of these outbreaks, with 16 percent of outbreaks caused by Legionella and 13 percent caused by Pseudomonas. Legionella can cause severe pneumonia and symptoms similar to the flu. Pseudomonas can cause hot tub rash and swimmer’s ear.
If a pool, hot tub, or water playground is not cleaned properly, bacteria can grow and form a slime called biofilm on wet surfaces. Legionella and Pseudomonas can live in this biofilm. It is harder for disinfectants to kill these bacteria when they are protected by biofilm. Pool operators need to maintain proper cleaning practices and disinfectant levels to prevent bacteria from growing and causing illnesses in swimmers.
We all know summer is coming up fast and many of us, especially children, are eager to jump in the pool and have fun. It’s important to take proper care of private swimming pools and hot tubs, and for public water area operators to closely follow proper safety protocol. A good rule of thumb is to not enter the pool if you or another swimmer is ill. It’s bad enough to swim with all the other nasty stuff one might find—you definitely don’t want to get sick off it too.