Poop in public pools: It’s a bigger health issue than you think

The Tribune

Pooping in the pool is a larger public health issue than most of us care to think about.

Reports of outbreaks of Cryptosporidium, a parasitic infection linked to public water sources like swimming pools, are increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number actually doubled from 2014 to 2016, with 16 outbreaks reported in 2014 and 32 reported in 2016.

The parasite, which is also known as Crypto, spreads when people swallow something that’s come in contact with an infected person’s poop, like diarrhea-contaminated pool water. The parasite is the most common cause of diarrheal illness linked to swimming pools and water playgrounds because it’s not easily killed off by chlorine and can survive up to 10 days in treated water, according to the CDC.

And if you swallow some of that tainted water, you could be sick for up to three weeks with nausea, vomiting or watery diarrhea.

Locally, “There’s generally a few cases a year, but we haven’t had large outbreaks in a long time,” said Ann McDowell, an epidemiologist at the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department. She said the last outbreak was in 2004, at Mustang Water Slides by Lopez Lake.

In 2015, six cases of Crypto were reported in SLO County. That number went up to eight in 2016, and zero cases have been reported since Jan. 1, 2017, McDowell said. She added that the health department receives most reports of Crypto in the summer months, but they do get some in the winter.

Here’s how you can protect yourself and others from Crypto:

▪  If you or your kids have diarrhea, don’t swim.

▪  Don’t swallow the water you’re swimming in.

▪  Take kids on frequent bathroom breaks and check diapers in a diaper-changing area, not right next to the pool.

▪  Rinse off in a shower before getting into the water to help remove germs that could contaminate the pool.

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Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF