Health Department encourages healthy swimming

(Des Moines, IA) – As swimming pools open on Memorial Day weekend, the Polk County Health Department would like to remind pool patrons that pools and other recreational waters are places where germs can be spread. The most common recreational water illness is diarrhea caused by germs such as Cryptosporidium (crypto), Giardia, Shigella, norovirus and E. coli O157:H7.  Swallowing just a mouthful of water with one of these germs can make you sick. 

“Last summer, we saw more cases of crypto than we had seen in a very long time. Many of these people were sick with diarrhea for 2-4 weeks,” said Rick Kozin, Director of the Polk County Health Department.

A person infected with crypto passes these parasites in their stool.  And a person with crypto who goes swimming can infect other people because you can get crypto by swallowing infected pool or other recreational water.  You can also get crypto by coming in contact with the feces of another person who has the parasite.  It can spread when an infected person fails to wash their hands thoroughly after using the restroom and then touching surfaces, objects or food during food preparation.

To reduce the spread of crypto Kozin said, “Do not swim if you have diarrhea. Shower before entering the water and each time you return to the pool especially after using the toilet. Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet.”

Parents are encouraged to:

  • Wash children thoroughly (especially their bottoms) with soap and water after they use the toilet or their diapers are changed and before they enter the water.
  • Change diapers in the bathroom, not at the poolside where germs can rinse into the water.
  • Take children for bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30-60 minutes.

“Having fun while you swim this summer means knowing how to prevent recreational water illnesses like crypto.  If we all do our part to keep ourselves, our families, friends and other swimmers healthy, it will be a fun summer,” said Kozin.

Make sure to visit your health care provider if you think you have crypto or another recreational water illness. If you have been diagnosed with crypto or another parasite, do not swim until at least two weeks after the diarrhea stops. For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's web site on healthy swimming and other Recreational Water Illnesses at http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/.

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