Swimming pools, hot tubs, and water parks can be a breeding ground for life-threatening germs, study warns.
In a recent study published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality report, researchers said many germs can live and thrive in public pools, hot tubs and water parks which can cause “violent illness”.
“We often underestimate what it takes to properly run a pool or hot tub to maintain a chlorine level where it needs to be,” said study lead author Michele Hlavsa, chief of the US CDC’s healthy swimming program.
US health officials report that outbreaks from waterborne germs between 2000-2014 were caused by three serious infections — cryptosporidium (known as Crypto), legionella and pseudomonas.
The officials warned that in some cases, these illnesses can lead to death.
Crypto is a parasite tough enough to survive even properly chlorinated pools, Hlavsa warned.
It’s usually contracted by swallowing pool water, often when it has been contaminated by diarrhea. The infection can cause up to three weeks of severe diarrhea.
Pseudomonas and Legionella are bacteria that can defy disinfectants and live in slimy areas of hot tubs, pools and water parks.
These bacteria can enter the body through the skin, eyes or nose, Hlavsa explained.
People aged 50 or older stand a higher risk of being infected with Legionella.
Those at higher risk of Legionella include current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease and those with weakened immune systems.
“The public underappreciates how risky pools are,” said Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Siegel also said swimmers also have a responsibility not to spread germs into pool water.
“What one does affects other people — that’s the basic concept of public health,” he said.
Swimming pools and other water-related equipment have to be carefully cleaned and chlorinated, filters have to be changed regularly and the water has to be circulating, he added.
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