The school summer holidays are nearly here, and many of us will be taking the children for days out at the local swimming pool. However, how can we protect them from some of the nasties that seem to turn up more and more these days in public swimming pools?
Recently, a news article published in the New York Daily News stated that a public swimming pool in Brooklyn had to be shut down when it became contaminated with fecal material. Park officials believed the incident was caused by a dirty diaper.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes a journal called Emerging Infectious Diseases. In the June 2008 issue, the CDC reported a study examining the safety of public swimming pool water in over 160 recreational water facilities. The purpose of the study was to determine how common two parasites occur in public swimming pools.
It turned out that one in 12 public swimming pools are contaminated with parasites.
Researchers in the CDC study took random samples from 160 public swimming pools around Atlanta, Georgia. Two microbial parasites, Cryptosporidium and Giardia, were present in one out of twelve swimming pools. These parasites are found in human feces. They are spread when someone swallows swimming pool water. They are also spread if a person does not wash his or her hands after handling a dirty diaper or eats contaminated food.
The most common symptom of these two parasites is diarrhea. Children and pregnant women can become violently ill from an infestation of Cryptosporidium or Giardia. People with compromised immune systems, such as people with AIDS and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, are at risk of dying if infested with Cryptosporidium, according to the CDC.
“Baby pools” and smaller, less- frequently attended pools were found to contain the highest presence of these microbial parasites.
Practice safe swimming when visiting public water facilities
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the following tips to reduce the risk of becoming ill from swimming in a public swimming pool:
– Do not go swimming if you have diarrhea
– Do not allow your children to go swimming if they have diarrhea
– Make sure your children make a trip to the bathroom before swimming in a public pool
– Do not swallow or drink swimming pool water
– Teach children not to swallow or drink swimming pool water
– Change baby diapers in designated changing areas in restrooms, not at poolside
– Insist on public recreational water facilities that are properly maintained
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