Disease Lurking in Swimming Pools Can Ruin Your Vacation

Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium) is a microscopic parasite ruining Americans’ summer vacations since 2009. This bug thrives in warm water, so it’s often found in crowded pools and lakes. The water acts as a passageway for the parasite into our bodies, causing a myriad of less than pleasant symptoms for up to 3 weeks. Crypto outbreaks in the U.S. have been first recorded on a mass scale in 2009, and ever since, the disease only got more traction, infecting more and more people every summer.

What is Crypto and Why is it Dangerous?

cryptosporidium parasite
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that survives by multiplying in a host’s body. A patient can get this parasite by ingesting microscopic amounts of infected fecal matter, which turns them into a host and causes adverse digestive symptoms.
Cryptosporidiosis patients typically exhibit the following symptoms:
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • A persistent cough (in respiratory cryptosporidiosis)
  • Stomach pain.

These symptoms can persist for up to 3 weeks, during which the patient is at a high risk of dehydration. This is especially dangerous for kids and immunocompromised individuals, as extreme dehydration can be fatal. Kids, the elderly and immunocompromised patients have the highest risk of contracting the disease as well.

Did you know that the summer heat can affect your usual medications?

How Could I Contract the Disease?

cryptosporidium swimming pool at a water park
Crypto outbreaks are recorded around the world every year, but during the past 10 or so years, there are more and more recorded outbreaks of crypto every year. Since 2009 to 2017 alone, there were 444 outbreaks. Of these recorded outbreaks, by far the most common way people contracted crypto was through a tainted swimming pool, with 35% of the cases having originated from crowded pools or water parks.
But how does the disease appear in a pool to begin with?
In the majority of cases, a patient with cryptosporidiosis will spread the parasite while swimming in the pool, and other people will then ingest the contaminated water. Chlorine cannot save us from the bug either, as studies have shown that it can survive in a chlorinated pool for up to 10 days.
But pools aren’t the only way to get the disease, kindergartens are a known breeding ground for the bacteria as well. Kids who have insufficient toilet- or hand-washing habits can unknowingly spread the disease through literally every object in the kindergarten. This is especially dangerous, as younger kids are at a greater risk of complications from the disease.
The two final and less common ways to catch cryptosporidiosis is through contact with cattle (15% of cases) or through raw foods (5%) like milk and raw apple cider. Boiling and higher concentrations of chlorine kill the bug, and in most cases, the swimming pool or any public area suspected to harbor the parasite is closed down for thorough cleaning and disinfection.

How Can I Protect Myself and My Kids from Crypto?

cryptosporidium public pool

Now that you’re well-informed about the dangers of crypto and the various ways it can be contracted, it’s only logical to learn how to protect yourself from the vicious parasite. 

The CDC recommends following these preventative guidelines:

1. Avoid swallowing any pool water at all costs.

2. Don’t swim if you have diarrhea and don’t let kids with diarrhea swim in a pool.

3. If you (or your kids) have recovered from crypto during the past 2 weeks, refrain from swimming. This is because your stool can contain crypto for 50 days post illness.

4. Always take a shower both before and after getting in the water.

5. If you have a small child, change their diapers more often than usual and in a designated area.

6. Know yourself and teach children to wash their hands thoroughly after each trip to the bathroom and even more often when you’re in a public area.

These tips may sound simple, but they are effective at preventing the spread of crypto, which will ensure that both you, your family and everyone else has a great time during their vacation. Need handy summer tips? Click here.

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