As we head into Memorial Day weekend, it’s a good time to consider some of the potentially deadly bugs that swimmers can be exposed to in hotel spas and public pools.
The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that almost one-third of disease outbreaks in America are linked to hotel spas and pools. In the 15-year period from 2000 to 2014, there were 493 recorded outbreaks in 46 states and the territory of Puerto Rico.
As noted in the report, an outbreak is defined as “similar illnesses occurring in two or more people that are linked by location and time to a particular body of treated water.” The outbreaks caused no fewer than 27,219 illnesses, and eight people died, the CDC reported.
That’s enough to make anyone want to stay out of the water.
What makes us sick?
Typically, it’s bacteria and/or parasites. Nearly 60 percent of confirmed outbreaks were caused by the parasitic agent Cryptosporidium, aka “Crypto.” This bug can survive in chlorinated pools and causes diarrhea and other gastrointestinal discomforts.
In 16 percent of the outbreaks, the bacteria Legionella was known or suspected to be the culprit. A severe form of pneumonia — Legionnaires’ disease — can result, as well as Pontiac fever, which is a milder flu-like illness.
Pseudomonas is another bacteria that often leads to folliculitis, or “hot tub rash.” Otitis externa, i.e.,”swimmers’ ear,” can also be contracted from hot tubs and swimming pools.
Pseudomonas and Legionella are not wiped out by disinfectants. So what are parents of swimmers to do?
The chief of the Healthy Swimming Program for the CDC advises parents to teach kids never to swallow pool or spa water. Parents can also ask the facility manager what are the results of the most recent inspection scores when determining whether or not to take a dip.
According to the CDC, over half of the outbreaks strike between June and August when the water gets warmest and most hospitable to germs.
If you or your family members get sick from swimming in a hotel pool this summer, you may want to investigate the possibility of filing a premises liability claim to recoup any financial losses.