The CDC has reported that fecal contamination in community pools is a common issue. With the mercury rising, one thing that many people turn their thoughts to is visiting local community pools. It’s a terrific way to cool off and socialize, but these community pools may cause more than just a day of refreshment.
According to the CDC, a recent study of samples of water from filters that were collected from Atlanta area swimming pools in the summer of 2012, there were Escherichia coli markers found in over half of them. These findings suggest that the water is contaminated by fecal matter. The report was released today, just in time for the upcoming holiday weekend.
The CDC worked with partners from the county and state health departments to test samples from filters for the genetic markers of many microbes that have been found to cause a threat to overall wellness. Both outdoor and indoor public pools were tested.
The finding of so much E coli in water samples suggests that swimmers are unknowingly introducing themselves to fecal matter when fecal incidents happened in the water, as well as when the bacteria washed off the body of swimmers. Although 58 percent of samples of pool filter water tested positive for E coli DNA, none of the pools were found positive for E coli o157:H7, which is the strain responsible for many food borne illnesses.
Researchers also discovered that Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is the pathogen known to cause ear infections and rashes in 59 percent of the pool filter water samples. This pathogen can be introduced from contamination in the environment, as well as by swimmers.
There is good news when it comes to contaminated pool water, however, and that is that Giardia and Cryptosporidium, both of which spread by fecal matter, were discovered in not quite two percent of the samples tested.
According to the CDC, waterparks and residential pools were not tested. Other recreational settings were not tested, either. Additionally, findings may not apply to all of the pools in the US. It may be indicative of the practices of swimmer hygiene across the United States, and this is concerning to the agency, as well as to many health care professionals.
Many wonder if there is a way to protect themselves from such illnesses, even when enjoying the public pool and cooling off. According to Michele Hlavsa, MPH and RN, and the head of the Health Swimming Program for the CDC, chlorine and other chemicals that are put into the pool don’t instantly kill germs. Hlavsa says that one of the most valuable ways for swimmers to protect themselves from the illnesses that are often caused from fecal matter found in these pools, is to avoid swallowing water that they swim in. Also, by showering before swimming, it is possible to prevent pools from becoming contaminated. Additionally, it’s essential to avoid swimming when a person is ill and has diarrhea.