May 21, 2007
When people think of water safety, they often think of
drowning prevention. While this is an important aspect of
swimming and boating safety, recreational water activities
also brings with them the potential for spreading
recreational water illnesses.
"The week preceding Memorial Day has been designated as
National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week. ...
Our goal is to highlight the importance of healthy
swimming, healthy swimming behaviors, and recreational
water illness prevention. This will be done by emphasizing
operation and prevention tips for pool operators and pool
patrons to ensure a healthy swimming experience."
Whether you own a pool, work at a pool, or will be visiting
a pool (or water park), it is important that you are aware
of the potential for the spread of disease.
"The third annual National Recreational Water Illness
Prevention Week is scheduled for May 21--27, 2007, at the
onset of swimming season, to raise awareness regarding the
potential for spread of infectious diseases at swimming
venues and the need to improve prevention measures. ...
During 1978_2004, a steady increase in RWI outbreaks in the
United States resulted in approximately 30,000 illnesses.
This increase likely can be attributed to a combination of
increased water usage, improved outbreak detection, and
increased disease transmission. The spread of RWIs is
facilitated by emergence of chlorine-resistant pathogens
such as Cryptosporidium, poor pool maintenance, and low
public awareness of the problem."
U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Not all pools are properly maintained, but even perfect
pool maintenance cannot prevent the spread of all
"Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by
microscopic parasites of the genus Cryptosporidium. Once an
animal or person is infected, the parasite lives in the
intestine and passes in the stool. The parasite is
protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive
outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very
resistant to chlorine- based disinfectants. Both the
disease and the parasite are commonly known as 'crypto.'
During the past two decades, crypto has become recognized
as one of the most common causes of waterborne disease
within humans in the United States. The parasite may be
found in drinking water and recreational water
[Recreational water includes water in swimming pools, hot
tubs, jacuzzis, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds,
or streams] in every region of the United States and
throughout the world."
CDC Division of Parasitic Diseases
Cryptosporidiosis is not the only potential threat. Another
"Giardia infection is an intestinal infection marked by
stomach cramps, bloating, nausea and bouts of watery
diarrhea. Giardia infection is caused by the parasite
Giardia intestinalis (also called Giardia lamblia). The
parasite is found worldwide but is especially prevalent in
countries with poor sanitation and unsafe water, where it's
responsible for most cases of childhood diarrhea. Yet the
giardia parasite isn't just a problem in developing
nations. Giardia infection (giardiasis) is one of the most
common waterborne diseases in the United States. Though the
parasites are often associated with backcountry streams and
lakes, they also turn up in municipal water supplies,
swimming pools, whirlpool spas and wells."
Swimmers, boaters, and travelers can reduce their chances
of contracting Giardia and other waterborne illnesses by
following some common-sense precautions.
"[C]ommon-sense precautions can go a long way toward
reducing the chances that you'll become infected or spread
the infection to others. For your own safety:
* Wash your hands. This is the simplest and best way to
prevent most kinds of infection. ... When soap and water
aren't available, alcohol-based sanitizers containing at
least 62 percent alcohol are an excellent alternative.
* Purify wilderness water. Avoid drinking untreated water
from shallow wells, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds and
streams unless you boil or filter it first.
* Leave no trace. If you're camping without access to a
toilet, bury your waste and your pet's at least 6 inches
deep and 200 feet from a water source. ...
* Keep your mouth closed. Try not to swallow water when
swimming in pools, lakes or streams.
* Be wary of tap water. ... If an outbreak of giardia
infection occurs in your area, buy bottled water or boil or
filter tap water before you use it.
* Use bottled water. When traveling to parts of the world
where the water supply is likely to be unsafe..."
Even those who are not swallowing the water (or even
getting it in their mouths) have the potential to contract
some waterborne illnesses.
"Hot Tub Rash [Pseudomonas Dermatitis] is an infection of
the skin. The skin may become itchy and progress to a bumpy
red rash that may become tender. There may also be
pus-filled blisters that are usually found surrounding hair
follicles. Because a swimsuit can keep contaminated water
in longer contact with the skin, the rash may be worse
under a person's swimsuit. ... Hot Tub Rash infections are
often caused by the germ Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This germ
is common in the environment (water, soil) and is
microscopic so that it can't be seen with the naked eye.
Most rashes clear up in a few days without medical
treatment. However, if your rash persists, consult your
healthcare provider. ... Hot Tub Rash is spread by direct
skin contact with contaminated water. The rash usually
occurs within a few days of swimming in poorly maintained
hot tubs or spas but can also be spread by swimming in a
contaminated pool or lake."
Whether relaxing in a spa, swimming in a pool, boating, or
camping waterborne illnesses are something that people need
to be aware of as the summer recreation season approaches.
Questions of the Week:
What can you do to reduce your risk of contracting an
illness that can be spread through contact with
contaminated water? What can you do to reduce the risk of
spreading it to others if you have (or suspect that you
have) an illness that can be spread through the water? What
should those who will be engaging in recreational water
activities know about the potential spread of such
illnesses? How would you recommend getting this information
to those who would benefit from having it?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum