The week before Memorial Day (May 24–30) is Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. The goal of this year’s awareness week is to maximize the health benefits of swimming while minimizing the risk of illness and injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.5 hours of physical activity every week, including water-based physical activity, can benefit everyone’s health. Each of us plays a role in preventing illnesses and injuries related to the water we swim, play, and relax in this summer and year-round.
How Prevalent are Water Illnesses?
During 2000–2014, nearly 500 outbreaks across the United States were linked to pools, hot tubs/spas, and water playgrounds. Most of the outbreaks were caused by the germs Legionella, E. coli, Pseudomonas, or Cryptosporidium, called Crypto for short. These germs, which are generally transmitted through poop, can make swimmers sick if they swallow just a mouthful of contaminated water.
Microscopic Amounts Can Make You Sick
People typically have about 0.14 grams (similar to a few grains of sand) of poop on their bodies at any given time. When a person who is sick with diarrhea gets in the water, that tiny amount of poop on their body can wash into the water around them and contaminate it with germs. Although most germs are killed within minutes by chlorine or bromine at the recommended levels, Crypto can survive in properly treated water for several days.
A Few Simple but Effective Prevention Steps We Can All Take
The best way to protect ourselves is to keep these germs out of the water and water out of our mouths in the first place. Don’t swim if you are sick (especially with diarrhea), don’t swallow water while swimming, shower before you swim, and treat your pool/hot tub water at home. When in freshwater areas, look for posted signs or other advisories from local public health authorities or outdoor recreation managers. If the area is closed or if there is guidance to avoid the water, stay out and keep your pets out!
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) inspects all public pools and spas in Mesa County each year. MCPH encourages you to enjoy local water destinations this summer with safety in mind.