Hotel Pools to Blame for a Third of Swimming-Related Illnesses: CDC

Leslie Hanson
May 18, 2018

Perhaps surprisingly, hot tubs accounted for a small percentage of hotel-related waterborne diseases, likely because they're smaller and hold a much smaller number of people. Over 200 of the outbreaks in the CDC report are attributed to Cryptosporidium, including over 21,000 illnesses. Legionella, which causes the serious pneumonia-like illness Legionnaires' disease, as well as the less-severe Pontiac fever, was responsible for 57 outbreaks and 624 illnesses.

"Any child or adult having diarrhea should simply not be in a pool, hot tub or water playground", Lenox Hill Hospital emergency physician Dr. Robert Glatter said, CNN reported. Diarrheal disease outbreaks caused by Cryptosporidium leveled off during 2008 through 2014.

More than half of the outbreaks started in the summer months, the peak season for swimming.

And of all the outbreaks from waterborne germs between 2000 and 2014, one-third occurred in pools or hot tubs at hotels, the officials said.

The most important way to prevent these outbreaks is to educate swimmers. It's typically spread when a person swims while they have diarrhea, putting others at risk of swallowing contaminated water. We need to keep it out of the water in the first place. And it goes without saying that if you're bleeding or otherwise sick, stay out of the water, for your own sake and everyone else's. Hotels with pools, hot tubs and spas were the leading setting for these outbreaks, according to the CDC. Those bacteria are associated with folliculitis ("hot tub rash") and otitis externa ("swimmers' ear"). Legionella and Pseudomonas can live in this biofilm. Cryptosporidium can survive in pools that are properly cleaned and maintained.

Those most susceptible to Legionella include people aged 50 or older, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease and those with weakened immune systems.

Not swimming or letting your children swim when sick with diarrhea. "If Crypto is confirmed, it's essential to remain out of the water for two weeks".

Take kids on bathroom breaks hourly, and change diapers in a diaper-changing area and away from the water.

"Multiple factors contribute to Legionella and Pseudomonas growth in hot tubs/spas, including inadequate disinfectant concentration; warm (77°F-108°F [25°C-42°C]) water temperatures (which facilitate pathogen amplification and make it hard to maintain adequate disinfectant concentration); water aeration (which depletes halogens); and the presence of biofilm on wet venue surfaces, scale, and sediment", the authors wrote.

Before getting in the water, use a test strip from your local retailer or pool supply store to check if the water's pH and bromine or free chlorine level are correct.

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