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Swimming Pool Blues

How to avoid a nasty germ

If your pool smells like chlorine, it must be safe. Right? Not entirely, health experts say.

According to an article in the Lexington Herald Leader, cryptosporidium can thrive despite chlorine. Called crypto for short, it's a type of bacteria that can cause diarrhea. For most healthy people, the illness is relatively short-lived and self-limiting. But, for the very young and for people with compromised immune systems, cryptosporidium can lead to serious health problems.

Cryptosporidium has caused at least 10,000 cases of waterborne diarrhea at swimming pools, spas and water parks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts say there have probably been many more cases. Sometimes people don't report cases to local health officials. Other outbreaks aren't detected.

There are steps that can be taken to control cryptosporidium, but most of the responsibility lies with people who have been sickened already. Cryptosporidium infection can be caused by swallowing only a small amount of water containing the germ. So, the key is not to swim if you have diarrhea. Also, wash your hands frequently, particularly after using the toilet or changing diapers. Don't change diapers by the side of the pool. And, when swimming, take your child for frequent bathroom breaks. Don't wait until he asks.

To find out more about cryptosporidium, you can read this fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or this from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

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