Swimming Pool Parasites

Swimming Pool Parasites

There may be something in the water, and it isn’t Kool-Aid! Every summer, more and more children and adults alike are exposed to fecal parasites found in pool water. Cryptosporidium, a parasite found in fecal matter, resides in the intestines of infected people and animals. Also known as crypto, this parasite can easily find its way into any water source, especially swimming pools. People may not want to think about the copious amount of fecal material in which they may be swimming, but they should because there have been over 444 outbreaks in the United States alone since 2009 causing over 7,465 hospitalizations. These cases have continuously increased by 12.8% each year, so now would be an excellent time to spread awareness about this parasite.

What is Cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidiosis is the disease that is caused by crypto, and anyone can become a victim. There are 200,000 cases reported every year in the United States. People with certain immune disorders should take extra caution because this disease can be fatal. Crypto sheds and spreads through fecal matter. People in swimming pools are more susceptible to the disease because, for one, it can spread more easily from person to person. Second, 24% of those surveyed had said that they would jump back into a pool less than one hour after having diarrhea, but doctors recommended that a person wait up to two weeks after having it to swim. An infected person can release anywhere from 10 million to 100 million crypto germs and it only takes 10 of them to cause an infection.

Causes of Cryptosporidiosis

In short, cryptosporidium in feces causes cryptosporidiosis. When someone enters a swimming pool without first washing their hands or has a bowel movement in the pool, the crypto parasite can be released and spread to someone else through pool water. People are infected with the disease by inadvertently ingesting infected fecal matter. Swimming pools are a common way for people to accidentally drink water containing the parasite, thus becoming quite ill. The parasite, however, is not spread through direct contact with blood. Crypto’s strong resistance allows it to thrive for extended periods in chlorinated drinking and pool water. In addition, untreated lakes and rivers are not immune to spreading this disease.

Symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis

Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis are similar to those of food poisoning, although the sign most associated with it is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms including stomach cramps, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, weight loss, and dehydration occurring within 2-10 days from the ingestion of the parasite. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to four weeks. Although this disease is rarely fatal, these symptoms can become severe depending on the immune system health and how much of the parasite has entered the body.

Treatment of Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidiosis is treated much like food-borne illness. The most important thing to know is that, because of diarrhea and vomiting, staying hydrated will make all the difference throughout the healing process. Maintain a well-balanced diet and avoid caffeinated beverages such as colas, teas, and coffee drinks. Avoid alcoholic beverages as well because they cause dehydration. Nitazoxanide is prescribed, FDA approved treatment for diarrhea that is caused by crypto. Consult with a healthcare professional about the benefits and the disadvantages of nitazoxanide.

Prevention of Cryptosporidiosis

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends bathing and thoroughly washing up before and after swimming in a pool. Do not swallow any water from any untrusted water source. Even though the pool water is chlorinated, it is not as effective in removing cryptosporidium. The parasite can survive in chlorinated pool water for up to seven days. The disease can be especially harmful to children, so those infected should be kept out of child care centers until the sickness has subsided. Any surfaces that have come into contact with the infected fecal matter must be thoroughly sanitized with hydrogen peroxide immediately.

Take Precautions And Enjoy Your Summer!

People who are recovering from a crypto infection should be considerate of others by waiting for at least two weeks after their symptoms subside before entering a swimming pool again. Everyone else should use extra caution when taking trips to public pools and water parks, as cryptosporidium is known to thrive in these areas because it is impossible to know how sanitary the surrounding strangers may be. Even though crypto is the most common parasitic disease found in pool water, it does not have to deter people from enjoying a relaxing day at the pool. It is always recommended to shower after swimming, just to be on the safe side. As long as everyone makes sure to follow basic sanitary practices and stays clean, then everyone will have a safe and healthy summer.

If you or your child experiences symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, come to The Emergency Center. We do treat children and adults alike.  The Emergency Center provides up to 23 hours of Observation and offers 24/7 care with NO WAITING. Visit one of The Emergency Center’s convenient 24-hour locations in ArlingtonFort Worth, and San Antonio.