CDC Survey Results – E.Coli found in Public Pools

Friends Swimming Underwater in Backyard PoolThis story is all over the morning news shows, radio personalities have made it the highlight of their comedic skits, news blasts are all over the internet.

The Los Angeles Times headline –

“Ewwww — poop in pools more common than you may think, CDC warns”

This morning the CDC released findings from a 2012 survey of Atlanta public pools(Microbes in Pool Filter Backwash as Evidence of the Need for Improved Swimmer Hygiene — Metro-Atlanta, Georgia, 2012)that found E.coli contamination in public pool water.  Levels of contamination varied by pool.  The CDC clearly states limitations to the results of the study

“The findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations. First, the pools sampled in this study are a convenience sample of pools in metro-Atlanta, and thus study findings cannot be generalized to pools in metro-Atlanta or beyond. However, the incidence of RWI outbreaks of acute gastrointestinal illness throughout the United States suggests that swimmers frequently introduce fecal material and pathogens into recreational water throughout the country. Second, qPCR results alone cannot be used to determine whether the detected pathogens were viable or infectious or determine the level of swimmer risk; qPCR detects viable microbes as well as those inactivated by disinfection. Of note, no RWI outbreaks associated with pools were detected in Georgia in 2012. Third, pool operators were asked to estimate the number of swimmers in the past week and number of days since last filter backwash; however, the data were deemed unreliable and thus could not be used to characterize the relationship between either of these factors and the detection of microbes in filter backwash samples. Finally, E. coli are found in fecal material from warm-blooded animals, not just humans. However, the E. colidetected in the pool filter backwash samples is most likely of human origin given that swimming is the most popular sport among children (6), over one third of the samples that tested positive for E. coli came from filters of indoor pools, and public outdoor pools are fenced in to limit access.”

Los Angeles Times translation, “The researchers emphasized that the results of their Atlanta-area survey can’t be generalized to the rest of the United States. But they noted that cases of recreational water illness have been on the rise from coast to coast, suggesting “that swimmers frequently introduce fecal material and pathogens into recreational water throughout the country.” Reassuringly, there were no pool-related health outbreaks in Georgia during the months when the filter samples were collected.

Though poor maintenance was surely a factor in these pools, the study authors said that swimmers shoulder some of the blame.”

How can you take protect yourself and others?

The CDC has information for the public regarding recreational water illness and the steps that one can take to protect oneself and ones family.

Steps of Healthy Swimming: Protection Against Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)

  • Keep the poop, germs, and pee out of the water.
    • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
    • Shower with soap before you start swimming.
      • Take a rinse shower before you get back into the water.
    • Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
    • Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.
    • Pools: Proper free chlorine level (1–3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm]) and pH (7.2–7.8) maximize germ-killing power.
    • Hot tubs/spas: Proper disinfectant level (chlorine [2–4 parts per million or ppm] or bromine [4–6 ppm] and pH [7.2–7.8]) maximize germ-killing power.
    • Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool-supply stores sell pool test strips.
  • Don’t swallow the water you swim in.

Parents of young children should take a few extra steps:

  • Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30–60 minutes.
    • Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area and not at poolside where germs can rinse into the water.Elderly Woman Smiling Wearing a Swimming Cap in a Swimming Pool

With hot summer weather just around the corner enjoy the community pool, but be considerate of others and swim safely.

posted by – Susan, Health Reference

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This entry was posted in CDC, CDC warns, E.coli in pools, Los Angeles Times. Bookmark the permalink.

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