The CDC warns to watch out for parasites at the pool

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water.

As pools open across America for the summer swimming season, the Centers for Disease Control (those friendly folks we count on to save us during the zombie apocalypse) issued a warning that public swimming pools are disgusting and possibly teaming with parasites.

Although pool operators count on the chemical chlorine to clear the water of bacteria and the urine of hundreds of children, chlorine (which is harmful to human health, so that’s exciting) isn’t enough to kill the parasite Cryptosporidium, according to the CDC.

“Cryptosporidium is a leading cause of waterborne disease among humans in the United States,” from the CDC website. This parasite has been found in swimming pools and water parks and enters its victim when pool water is swallowed. Oh, and only if the swallowed water has been tainted by the feces of an infected person. So, if you’re in the pool, maybe keep your mouth closed.

The main symptoms of a Cryptosporidium infection are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, dehydration, or no symptoms at all. So we all may have Crypto parasites and not even know it. Chew on that for a while. Symptoms last from one to two weeks and usually only need medical treatment in the cases of small children and those with a weakened immune system.

The number of cases is small, 32 reported in the United States in 2016, but this is double the amount of Cryptosporidium outbreaks since 2014. However, Cryptosporidium is more common in Europe (an average of close to 8,000 cases reported per year), and Australia (149 cases in December 2016 alone. The largest outbreak being 1,000 cases in New South Wales in 1998). This makes me wonder what people do in swimming pools.

But the CDC isn’t finished scaring us away from the water. Other nasties lurking in public swimming pools include E. coli, Hepatitis A, lice and sexually transmitted diseases. That’s right, you’re sleeping with the water everyone there has slept with.

To effectively protect ourselves from the unseen dangers public swimming pools have to throw at us, observe the following:

1) Don’t drink swimming water. If you do, you had terrible parents.

2) If you’re ill, or have an open wound, pretend your childhood fears of the swimming pool were right and it’s teaming with sharks. Stay out.

3) If the pool is covered in algae, it’s poorly maintained, or it’s a pond. Either way watch out for snakes.

4) Shower. Before, during, and after swimming.

5) And, lastly, to ensure you have a safe, bacteria-free trip to the public pool, stay clear of the nachos at the snack bar.

Pools, however, aren’t the only source of waterborne sickness and death. If you value your health, never step into a public hot tub. The following illnesses have been found infecting hot tubs: Pseudomonas folliculititis (the germ that causes hot tub rash), Legionnaires’ Disease, E. coli, the Giardia parasite, and our old friend Cryptosporidium. Hot tubs are a stew of death.

Happy swimming.

Jason’s latest book, “Road Closed: Twelve bloody stories to brighten your day,” is available at

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