Break out the sunscreen and swimsuits. Pool season has arrived! But wait
- before you jump in, federal health officials are warning that the reports
of crypto outbreaks have doubled in the past two years.
Cryptosporidium parasite — called Crypto for short — is one of the most common
causes of recreational water illnesses (disease caused by germs spread
through pool water, water parks, hot tubs, lakes) in the United States
and can cause prolonged diarrhea (1-2 weeks). It is found in the fecal
matter of a person who has been infected by this germ. It has a tough
outer shell that allows it to survive for days even in properly chlorinated
pools. Swallowing just a mouthful of water contaminated with crypto can
make otherwise healthy people sick. Young children, pregnant women, and
individuals with weakened immune systems are more likely to become seriously
ill if infected with Crypto.
Luckily, better surveillance and laboratory methods have led to better
outbreak detection. In 2010,
CryptoNet was launched, which is first U.S. DNA fingerprinting–based tracking
system for illness caused by a parasite. This system helps states better
detect and control outbreaks by identifying which types of Crypto are
infecting people. While health departments and organizations can better
warn the public of outbreaks, the parasite remains a threat to your summer fun.
So how does the bug get in the water? It hitches a ride in fecal matter.
When you engage in any water activity, you share the water - and the germs
in it - with everyone else. The water can become contaminated with tens
or hundreds of millions of germs if one person infected with Crypto has
diarrhea in the water. Ingesting even a small amount of contaminated water
can cause illness.
To protect yourself and loved ones from becoming ill, the CDC recommends
the following actions to prevent spreading germs around pool or other
recreational water venues:
- Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea
- Don’t pee or poop in the water
- Don’t swallow the water
- Rinse off in the shower before getting in the water to help remove any
germs on your body that could contaminate the water
- Take kids on bathroom breaks often, and check diapers in a diaper-changing
area and not right next to the pool
- If you’ve had diarrhea is caused by Crypto, wait until two weeks
after diarrhea has stopped to go swimming
One of the best parts of summer is jumping into a cool pool on a hot day.
So, don’t feel like you have to avoid swimming. Just swim smarter
and enjoy the water.
For more information about Crypto, visit
For more information on preventing illness and injury at the pool, visit
Gayle Whitmore is a Registered Nurse and Infection Control Preventionist
at St. Mary’s Medical Center. She can be reached at 816-655-5242.