'Crypto' outbreaks increase in Pima County swimming pools

'Crypto' outbreaks increase in Pima County swimming pools

PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - With summer right around the corner, there's some nasty news to consider before heading to the pool.

Outbreaks of a parasitic infection tied to swimming pools and water parks are on the rise in Pima County, with triple the number of outbreaks in 2016 as in 2015.

The Pima County Health Department received reports of at least 29 outbreaks caused by Cryptosporidium in 2016.

In 2015, there were nine cases. In 2014, only three people were infected.

The numbers add up to a more than 300 percent increase from the 2015 year alone.

The Cryptosporidium 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.

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 otherwise healthy people sick for up to three weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting, and can lead to dehydration.

"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 Michele Hlavsa, R.N., M.P.H., chief of CDC's Healthy Swimming Program. "Protect yourself from getting sick by not swallowing the water in which you swim."

Standard levels of chlorine and other pool disinfectants kill most germs within a few minutes.

However, Crypto is extremely hard to kill at standard levels of pool disinfectants.

CDC recommends closing pools and treating the water with high levels of chlorine, called hyperchlorination, when responding to a diarrheal incident in the water or 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.

Click HERE to see inspection results from the most recent month. Once on the page, click on "Consumer Health & Food Safety monthly report." The pool inspections for that month will be listed after the inspections of food establishments.

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