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CDC warns of parasitic infection, toxic gas at public pools

(MGN Online)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- The CDC are warning of a parasitic infection linked to swimming pools and water playgrounds.

The organization said outbreaks are increasingly being reported, with twice as many outbreaks in 2016 as in 2014, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issued Thursday.

"Cryptosporidium or "Crypto" is a germ that can make people sick with diarrhea for up to three weeks," Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC's Healthy Swimming Program, wrote in an email.

At least 32 outbreaks caused by Crypto linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds in the U.s. were reported in 2016.

In Ohio alone, nearly 2,000 people became sick from Crypto last year, according to CNN.

States are not required to report patient numbers, so the CDC does not collect totals.

The parasite can spread when people swallow something that has come into contact with the feces of a sick person, such as pool water contaminated with diarrhea, according to the CDC.

CDC said Crypto is the most common cause of diarrheal illness and outbreaks linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds because it is not easily killed by chlorine and can survive up to 10 days in properly treated water.

Swallowing just a mouthful of water contaminated with Crypto can make you sick for up to three weeks with diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting, and can lead to dehydration, according to the CDC.

“To help protect your family and friends from Crypto and other diarrhea-causing germs, do not swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea,” said Hlavsa. “Protect yourself from getting sick by not swallowing the water in which you swim.”

Preventing spread of germs in pool and other recreational water

Standard levels of chlorine and other pool disinfectants kill most germs within a few minutes, according to the CDC, but Crypto is different.

The CDC recommends closing pools and treating the water with high levels of chlorine, called hyperchlorination, when there is a Crypto outbreak.

The best way to help protect yourself and others from germs that cause diarrhea is to follow these steps:

  • Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
  • If diarrhea is caused by Crypto, wait until two weeks after diarrhea has stopped to go swimming.
  • Don’t swallow the water in which you swim.
  • 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.

The CDC created a DNA fingerprinting-based tracking system for illnesses caused by a parasite in 2010, called CryptoNet.

The system helps states detect and control outbreaks by identifying which types of Crypto are infecting people.

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