There are few things more inviting than a cool, clear pool on a hot summer
day. But a new federal report will have you thinking twice before dipping a toe
in the water.
A shocking 58% of pool filter samples taken from Atlanta area pools last summer
contained E-coli, a bacteria found in human faeces.
The report is a sign that swimmers often contaminate pool water when they
have a "faecal incident" in the water, or when human waste washes off their
bodies because they don't shower thoroughly before hitting the water, according
to the report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And while the study only focused on pools in the Atlanta region, the
researchers said it's likely that faecal contamination from swimmers is a
problem in public pools throughout the country. The study did not look at water
parks, residential pools or other types of recreational water.
Don't swallow the water
"Swimming is an excellent way to get the physical activity needed to stay
healthy," Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC's Healthy Swimming Program, said in
an agency news release. "However, pool users should be aware of how to prevent
infections while swimming.
"Remember," she added, "chlorine and other disinfectants don't kill germs
instantly. That's why it's important for swimmers to protect themselves by not
swallowing the water they swim in and to protect others by keeping faeces and
germs out of the pool by taking a pre-swim shower and not swimming when ill with
The CDC says all swimmers should take the following steps to keep faeces out
of pools and to prevent infections:
- Don't swim if you have diarrhoea.
- Shower with soap before swimming.
- Take a rinse shower before getting back in the water.
- Go to the bathroom every 60 minutes.
- Wash your hands with soap after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Don't swallow the water you swim in.
Parents of young children should take the following
- Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30
to 60 minutes.
- Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area and not at poolside
where germs can rinse into the water.
Dr Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in
New York City, said the new study "highlights the importance of practicing good
hygiene anytime we swim in a pool, since the potential for contamination with
faecal organisms, which could lead to severe diarrhoeal illnesses, remains an
ever present concern.
"From a public health standpoint," he added, "it is especially important for
people to avoid swimming when they have diarrhoea, as other swimmers could
swallow germ-laden water and potentially become ill.
The study reveals a "true public health concern, and reinforces the need to
practice safe and effective swim hygiene as the summer approaches," Glattner
The study appears in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality
Weekly Report. The goal of the prevention week
is to "raise awareness about healthy swimming, including ways to prevent
recreational water illnesses (RWIs). Germs that cause RWIs are spread by
swallowing, breathing in the mists or aerosols from, or having contact with
contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, interactive
fountains, water play areas, lakes, rivers, or oceans," according to the
For more on healthy swimming visit the US Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
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