Crypto outbreaks linked to swimming have doubled since 2014

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Outbreaks of a parasitic infection linked to swimming pools and water playgrounds are increasingly being reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with twice as many outbreaks in 2016 as in 2014.

At least 32 outbreaks caused by Cryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”) linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds in the United States were reported in 2016, compared with 16 outbreaks in 2014, according to preliminary data published on May 18, 2017, in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The parasite can spread when people swallow something that has come into contact with the feces of a sick person, such as pool water contaminated with diarrhea.

In comparison, 20 Crypto outbreaks linked to swimming were reported in 2011, 16 in 2012, and 13 in 2013. The CDC said it is not clear whether the number of outbreaks has increased or whether better surveillance and laboratory methods are leading to better outbreak detection.

Crypto is the most common cause of diarrheal illness and outbreaks linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds because it is not easily killed by chlorine and can survive up to 10 days in properly treated water. Swallowing just a mouthful of water contaminated with Crypto can make otherwise healthy people sick for up to three weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting, and can lead to dehydration.

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Cryptosporidium parasite
The Cryptosporidium parasite can spread when people swallow something that has come into contact with the feces (poop) of a sick person, such as pool water contaminated with diarrhea. Image by CDC.

According to an article by the CBC, “Cryptosporidiosis became a notifiable disease in Canada in 2000. Since then, the number of reported cases have ranged from 587 per year to more than 1,700 in 2001.”

While rare, serious outbreaks of water-borne diseases can pose a significant threat to Canadian public health, said researchers from the University of Guelph in a 2014 report. The report also said that outbreaks of the disease have been linked to “pool fouling, lack of education and training, inadequate pool structures, and lack of disinfection equipment.”

To learn more, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: www.cdc.gov

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