New CDC Report Makes A Desperate Health Plea — Stop Going Swimming If You Have Diarrhea

A shot of a person swimming in a pool.
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A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a desperate health plea for the summertime — stop going swimming if you have diarrhea.

The report issues a warning about the dangers of a parasite called cryptosporidium, with cases of the affliction rising by 13 percent over the last decade with more than 7,000 reported cases. As the CDC report noted, close to one-third of all people stricken by the parasite contract it in treated swimming pools, with the summer swimming months bringing the vast majority of cases. The report said most people contract the parasite by swallowing water that has been contaminated by it.

The parasite is able to survive exposure to chlorine, and those who catch the parasite known as “crypto” can have devastating health effects, the report noted.

“Swallowing just a mouthful of water with crypto in it can make otherwise healthy kids and adults sick for weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program.

Since the pool chemicals are unable to stop the parasite, CDC officials are hoping to stop its spread with some old-fashioned prevention. The report explicitly called on people to stay away from swimming pools when they have diarrhea.

“Chlorine cannot kill crypto quickly. We need to keep it out of the water in the first place. Don’t go into the water, and don’t let your kids go into the water, if sick with diarrhea,” Hlavsa said.

The report noted that crypto largely affects children between the ages of 1- and 4-years-old, especially younger children and non-potty trained kids who spend time in wading pools. The agency also warns parents not to send children to daycare when they have diarrhea, and reminds people to wash their hands after interacting with animals.

The government health agency has been aggressive in its campaign to educate people about the dangers of swimming while afflicted with diarrhea. The release of the report coincided with a social media campaign to encourage people to stay out of the pool when they’re sick, including animation on Twitter warning swimmers that it takes just one person with diarrhea to contaminate an entire pool.

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The campaign seems to have worked, with news outlets across the country picking up on the story, including some that normally shy away from dry CDC reports and health news. People magazine was among those reporting on the dangers of crypto and warning people not to go swimming when they have diarrhea.

CDC officials said that most people afflicted by crypto can recover with proper treatment and hydration, but those with weakened immune systems can be at risk for greater health effects.