CDC warns 'crypto' parasite outbreaks at public pools are increasing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned that outbreaks of a parasite called Cryptosporidium, more commonly called 'crypto,' have increased over the years since 2009. These outbreaks are primarily impacting public swimming pools and water playgrounds, putting the public at risk of acquiring the parasite, which is able to survive for multiple days in chlorinated water.

Crypto infections are a particular problem during the summer months due to the increased number of people who visit public water parks and pools. According to a FAQ document from the CDC, crypto is spread when someone swallows water contaminated with fecal matter containing the parasite. Any body of water shared by multiple people has the potential of spreading this parasite and chlorine doesn't necessarily protect against that.

In an advisory published in late June, the CDC revealed that the number of diarrhea outbreaks caused by crypto infections has increased every year from 2009 to 2017. This is one of the top causes of water-based disease outbreaks in the US, with 444 known outbreaks over the aforementioned time period. Because of those outbreaks, 7,465 people ended up sick, resulting in 287 hospitalizations and one death.

Of note, the CDC reveals that the majority of these cases (39%) resulted from treated swimming water. Young kids are particularly vulnerable to acquiring and spreading crypto, something that can result from not washing one's hands after using the toilet, as one example. Crypto can also be acquired and spread from animals.

Because properly maintaining a swimming pool isn't adequate for preventing the parasite from contaminating it, the CDC advises public water facilities and owners of private swimming pools to take steps to prevent contamination. This includes washing after interacting with animals and staying out of a pool if suffering from diarrhea. Most importantly, the public is advised to avoid swallowing water while swimming.