North Carolina

Pool parasites sickening swimmers are on the rise, CDC says. Here’s how to stay safe

The number of summertime parasite outbreaks continues to grow, public health officials say, and most people catch the bug in pools and water playgrounds.

Cryptosporidium, called Crypto for short, is a parasite that causes diarrhea for weeks, and outbreaks increased at an average rate of 13% a year from 2009 to 2017, according to new data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Crypto, a parasite, is spread through the poop of infected humans or animals. People can get sick after they swallow the parasite in contaminated water or food or after contact with infected people or animals,” according to the CDC.

The parasite is the main cause of disease outbreaks at pools and water playgrounds in the country, the CDC said.

From 2009 through 2017, the most recent available data, there were 444 Crypto outbreaks in the United States, with almost 7,500 people reported sick, 287 people hospitalized and one who died, according to the CDC.

“35% of the outbreaks were linked to treated swimming water in places like pools and water playgrounds,” the CDC said.

The parasites “can survive for days in chlorinated water in pools and water playgrounds or on surfaces disinfected with chlorine bleach,” making it particularly challenging to kill, the CDC said.

“Crypto can easily cause outbreaks because it only takes a few germs to make someone sick, and there can be millions of Crypto germs in poop. Someone sick with Crypto can have diarrhea for up to three weeks.”

How to stay healthy in the pool

Most Crypto outbreaks happen in the summer, when the weather warms and people flock to pools and water parks. Here are tips from the CDC to not get sick from the pool this summer:

  • “Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea
  • “Shower before you get in the water
  • “Don’t pee or poop in the water
  • “Don’t swallow the water
  • “Take kids on bathroom breaks
  • “Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area–not poolside–to keep germs away from the pool.”
Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.