Vacationers beware: Don’t jump into that hotel swimming pool just yet

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It’s summer—prime time for splish-splashing in pools. But before jumping in, be aware that some nasty germs might be lurking in the water—especially in hotel pools, a new report shows.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) looked at nationwide data from illnesses tied to treated recreational water from 2000 through 2014. More than 27,000 people got sick in 493 disease outbreaks linked to pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds. And eight people died.

About one-third of the outbreaks happened in hotel pools and hot tubs.

Crypto: A parasite you don't want

The parasite Cryptosporidium—or Crypto for short—was the most common cause of illness. It’s so tough that it can survive even in well-maintained pools. Altogether, it was to blame for 59 percent of the outbreaks where a germ was identified.

Crypto spreads in pool water when someone infected with it has diarrhea in the water and then others swallow the contaminated water. Swallowing just a mouthful of water with Crypto can make otherwise healthy kids and adults sick for weeks. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.

Bacterial culprits

After Crypto, two bacteria were the most frequent causes of sickness: Legionella and Pseudomonas. Legionella can cause severe pneumonia and symptoms similar to the flu. It was responsible for at least six of the eight deaths. Pseudomonas can cause swimmer’s ear and a hot tub rash.

These bacteria can multiply in slimy areas when wet surfaces of pools, hot tubs or water playgrounds aren’t cleaned properly.

The report appeared in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by CDC.

Swim without sickness

So how can you keep both yourself—and others—healthy during your next dip in a pool, soak in a hot tub or trip to a water park? Here’s what CDC advises:

  • Be careful not to swallow pool water.
  • Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea. If you know that Crypto is the culprit, wait two weeks after the diarrhea has stopped to go swimming.
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks hourly.
  • Change diapers in a diaper-changing area away from the water.
  • Check the inspection scores of pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds before you use them.

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