With Memorial Day Weekend and the official kick-off to summer right around the corner, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some sobering statistics in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Thursday. The largest culprit of disease outbreaks in the US attributed to treated or chlorinated water comes from hotels, with a one-third of all reports coming from hot tubs and pools on their premises. During a 15-year period studied between 2000 and 2014, a whopping 493 outbreaks were attributed to water at these locations in a total of 46 states plus Puerto Rico.
These outbreaks were responsible for at least eight deaths and 27,219 illnesses. The primary culprits were parasites and bacteria with 58 percent of the outbreaks being attributed to the parasite Cryptosporidium. This hardy parasite is the cause of a host of gastrointestinal illnesses including diarrhea.
Of the eight confirmed deaths, six were blamed on the bacteria Legionella. Most commonly known as the root of Legionnaires’ disease, this bacteria causes severe pneumonia and milder symptoms resembling the flu. A less serious but still uncomfortable reaction is found with the bacteria Pseudomonas, known for causing folliculitis, otherwise known as hot tub rash, as well as otitis externa, more commonly known as swimmers ear. Pseudomonas caused illness in almost 13 percent of the tested waters.
More than half of all outbreaks occur during the warm summer months when public pools are more crowded and bacteria and parasites are more able to thrive in the hot water temperatures. It is also imperative to stay out of pools and hot tubs if you are experiencing diarrhea, as this can quickly infect other people.
Experts advise being cognizant of not drinking the water in any swimming area. Some even go so far as to advise to test the waters yourself with the inexpensive water testing strips found at local pool supply stores.