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CDC Warns Swimmers Of Parasite Outbreaks In Pools

A Chapel Hill swimming pool in July.
Town of Chapel Hill
The CDC wants swimmers to know about an increase in waterborne parasites in pools.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning swimmers of an increase in outbreaks of a waterborne parasite in pools.
The agency wants swimmers to know that last year the U.S. saw a rise in outbreaks of the waterborne parasite crypto-sporidium. It causes diarrhea and can spread in public pools. Wake County reported 62 cases last year, according to Andre Pierce, director of the county’s environmental health and safety department. A few precautions prevent it from spreading, he said.

“Stay out of the pool for two days after you've had diarrhea or vomiting,” he said. “And for children, diapering small children, that should not be done by the poolside, that should be done in a bathroom with good hand-washing afterwards.”

Wake County is placing bright colored signs at public pools as a reminder to keep good hygiene while enjoying the water.

To prevent the spread of illnesses or eye irritation, it's also important to shower before swimming, according to Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program.

“I think we worry more about showering after we get out of the pool, but showering before is just as important, or even more important to shower before you get in the water,” Hlavsa said. “The other thing we recommend is every hour, everyone out. We think about our kids and either you know, take them to a bathroom or take them to a diaper changing area.”

Anyone who has been sick recently should also avoid swimming.

Hlavsa said swimmers should take care to prevent the spread of crypto.

“There's no reason to stop swimming. This is about swimming smarter,” Hlavsa said. “When we got to the pool, makes sure we don't swallow the water we swim in. Chlorine works, but it doesn't work instantly. It takes minutes to kill most germs. Crypto is a bit of an exception to that rule in that it can survive for days.”

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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