Is Your Pool Clean?

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Public Swimming pools are fun for summer, but they can also be breeding grounds for parasites that can make you sick. The CDC reports the number of outbreaks of illness in 1896 was only two, but in 2000 it had gone up to 21.

"I do think the pool needs to be clean. My little boy got sick at a public pool. He got strep throat last year. It's a very big concern to me," Jenny Lawyer says.

Jenny Lawyer takes her son and daughter to the pool almost every day and has for the past two years. She says it’s extremely important to her, as a mother, to have the pool clean.

Lawyer says, "I'd rather it be clean. I don't mind them shutting down. We've had it shut down a couple of times and it's okay."

The biggest problem in most pools is fecal accidents. When an accident like this occurs at Russell Sims Aquatic Park they follow these precautions.

Tim Leek is the Aquatic Facility Operator at Russell Sims. He says, "The first thing we do is remove all patrons from the pool itself. We shut down all the pumps except for the filtration system. Then we locate where the fecal accident was. We remove the fecal accident put it inside bags then we super chlorinate the area with bleach water."

David Burton, of the Barren River Health Department says, "In Kentucky we do not have a specific requirement in the regulation or in the statute that says specifically you have to close a pool for a certain number of hours or minutes."

The most common illnesses associated with pools are Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Hepatitis A, and e-Coli.

Burton says, "That's on everyone's mind. That's the contaminant that created a problem in the Atlanta water park a few years ago."

The next time you go swimming, be informed. Learn more about these illnesses and how to protect yourself and your family.

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Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)

What are they?

    RWIs are illnesses that are spread by swallowing, breathing, or having contact with contaminated water from swimming pools, spas, lakes, rivers, or oceans. Recreational water illnesses can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including skin, ear, respiratory, eye, and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Diarrheal illnesses can be caused by germs such as:

    • Crypto, short for Cryptosporidium, is found in infected people’s stool and cannot be seen by the naked eye. This germ is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive for long periods of time and makes it resistant to chlorine disinfection. It can be spread by swallowing contaminated recreational water.

    • Giardia is found in infected people’s stool and cannot be seen by the naked eye. During the past two decades, it has become recognized as one of the most common causes of waterborne illness (drinking water and recreational water) in the United States. This germ is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body and in the environment for long periods of time. It can be spread by swallowing contaminated recreational water.

    • Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacterium. The diarrhea is often bloody. Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 to 7 days. In some persons, especially young children and the elderly, the diarrhea can be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. It can be spread by swallowing contaminated recreational water.

    • Escherichia coli O157:H7 is an emerging cause of foodborne illness. An estimated 73,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths occur in the United States each year. Infection often leads to bloody diarrhea, and occasionally to kidney failure. Most illness has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef. Person-to-person contact in families and child care centers is also an important mode of transmission. Infection can also occur after drinking raw milk and after swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water. It can be spread by swallowing contaminated recreational water.

Why doesn’t chlorine kill these RWI germs?

    Chlorine in swimming pools does kill the germs that may make people sick, but it takes time. Chlorine in properly disinfected pools kills most germs that can cause RWIs in less than an hour. Chlorine takes longer to kill some germs such as Crypto, which can survive for days in even a properly disinfected pool. This means that without your help, illness can spread even in well-maintained pools.

Who is most likely to get ill?

    Children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems (such as those living with AIDS, those who have received an organ transplant, or those receiving certain types of chemotherapy) can suffer from more severe illness if infected. People with compromised immune systems should be aware that recreational water might be contaminated with human or animal waste that contains Cryptosporidium, which can be life threatening in persons with weakened immune systems. People with a compromised immune system should consult their health care provider before participating in behaviors that place them at risk for illness.

How can we prevent RWIs?

  • Don't swim when you have diarrhea. This is especially important for kids in diapers. You can spread germs into the water and make other people sick.

  • Don't swallow the pool water. In fact, avoid getting water in your mouth.

  • Practice good hygiene. Take a shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

  • Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.

  • Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside. Germs can spread to surfaces and objects in and around the pool and spread illness.

  • Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Everyone has invisible amounts of fecal matter on their bottoms that ends up in the pool.

Source: (CDC Healthy Swimming)