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Chlorine Won't Protect Your Pool From Cryptosporidium Parasite, CDC Warns

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Cryptosporidium is a parasite that can be found in pools and hot tubs that could be affecting Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The microorganisms can survive up to 10 days in these bodies of water, even those treated with chlorine.

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs), including cryptosporidium, can infect children and adults who play in the water. These RWIs, including E. coli, norovirus, Shigella and other microorganisms, can cause infections of the ear, eye and gastrointestinal systems or invade open wounds.

As summer gets hotter and pools continue to warm, more people are diving in to potentially-contaminated waters, the CDC reports. According to the federal agency, microscopic organisms in water infected at least 1,788 people around the nation, sending at least 95 people to the hospital for treatment from 2001 to 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available.

"Among 69 (77 percent) outbreaks associated with treated recreational water, 36 (52 percent) were caused by Cryptosporidium. Among 21 (23 percent) outbreaks associated with untreated recreational water, seven (33 percent) were caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli O157:H7 or E. coli O111)," the CDC reports.

Symptoms of cryptosporidium infection includes diarrhea and other discomforts. It is the leading cause of this irregular bowel condition in patients who are HIV-positive.

Pool owners can help reduce the risk to their family and guests by insisting people shower before diving into the water, the CDC stated. This practice could assist in preventing the microorganism from contaminating hot tubs or pools. It is also a good idea for anyone experiencing diarrhea to stay out of pools, the national public health agency recommended. Parents of young children are advised to change diapers well away from pools, in order to prevent contamination of the water by human waste.

Swimmers and bathers can contract the disease by swallowing water contaminated with the protozoan.

Incidence of the disease has increased during the last several years, with the majority of infections taking place in backyard hot tubs and pools.

Swimming is one of the most popular of all summertime activities in the United States. Health officials estimate that just 2.5 hours of swimming each week can provide numerous health benefits. However, this otherwise healthy practice can be fraught with its own retinue of dangers.

"These germs — sometimes millions at a time — can spread when someone who is sick has diarrhea in the water. Other people can get sick if they swallow the germy water — even just a mouthful. Pool chemicals, like chlorine or bromine, are added to the water to kill germs. But they don't work right away. If used properly, they can kill most germs within a few minutes. However, some germs, like Crypto can live in properly treated pool water for several days," the CDC stated on their website.

Swimming can be a healthy activity this summer, as long as it is done safely.

Photo: Leo Hidalgo | Flickr

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