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1 Dirty pool, numerous cases of E. Coli: the danger of swimming in summer

News photo: 1 dirty swimming pool, many cases of E.  Coli: the danger of swimming in summerBy Steven Reinberg Health Day Reporter

As the weather warms up and families flock to the pools, dirty water can spoil the fun.

Swimmers at a community pool in Pennsylvania learned this the hard way when in June 2021, more than a dozen children were seriously ill from two types of bacteria, E.coli and It’s hard.

“These are pathogens that can cause quite significant gastrointestinal upset at all ages, but particularly in children,” said researcher Molly Nace, an epidemiology research associate at the Pennsylvania Department of Health in Greensburg. “Some of the children who tested positive for E.coli also tested positive for It’s hard.”

The children fell ill after swallowing the pool water, she said.

These bacteria usually end up in pool water because someone is swimming with diarrhea, Nace said. Bacteria can also enter the water from another source of contamination, and sometimes local water sources can have E.colishe added.

During this epidemic, 15 children fell ill. Thirteen of them required medical attention and six were hospitalized with severe diarrhea and inflammation of the colon. Fortunately, none developed hemolytic uraemic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure.

The report was released May 20 in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Normally chlorine kills E.coli and It’s hard. However, the pool’s automatic chlorinator was out of order, which allowed bacteria to grow. According to the records, at one point no chlorine was detected in the pool, the researchers noted.

Nace said the best way to avoid introducing harmful bacteria into swimming pools is to avoid swimming if you have diarrhea. People should also wash their hands before and after swimming. That advice goes for backyard and public pools, she said.

Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, compares swimming pools to cesspools. “I mean, I’m not a fan of them,” he said.

Siegel’s advice to pool owners is to maintain chlorine at recommended levels and clean pool filters regularly.

“Check filters frequently and make sure you have adequate filtration, and check the chlorine level,” he said. “Also, people entering the pools must shower first, which almost no one does.”

Nace and Siegel recommend that bathers follow the CDC advice:

  • Do not swim or let others swim if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower for at least 1 minute before entering the water to remove dirt or anything else on your body.
  • Do not swallow the water.
  • Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  • Take children to the bathroom and check diapers every hour.
  • Change diapers away from the edge of the pool to prevent germs from entering the water.
  • Dry the ears thoroughly with a towel after swimming.

The CDC also says chlorine mixed with dirt, sweat, urine, and feces creates chemicals that sting and redden swimmers’ eyes. And when these contaminants are in the pool water, it means there is less chlorine available to kill germs.

More information

To learn more about healthy swimming, see the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Molly Nace, MPH, epidemiology research associate, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Greensburg; Marc Siegel, MD, clinical professor, medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York; CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly ReportMay 20, 2022

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