Health Officials Cite Water Park, Swimming Risks

Recent outbreaks of waterborne illnesses have raised questions about just how safe local pools and water parks may be.

Nearly 2,000 people have now gotten sick by an outbreak of an intestinal illness at a popular state-run water park in upstate New York.

The state-run park, which usually attracts about 43,000 visitors every August, has now been closed for the summer.

Tests showed the tank system that feeds the park's water jets and sprinklers was contaminated with a waterborne disease called cryptosporidiosis, or crypto.

It is contracted through contaminated food and water supplies and is highly contagious -- causing fever, nausea and digestive problems that can last for weeks. Those most at risk for more severe side effects are pregnant women and children.

There is no drug to kill the parasite; most patients get treatment just for the symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests calling a doctor to check on whether to take anti-diarrheal drugs, but notes that a new drug has been approved for treatment of diarrhea caused by crypto in healthy children under the age of 12.

A similar park in Lousiana has also been shut down after several people reported contracting crypto, but it's not clear if the water park was the source of the outbreak.

CDC Tips

No one has been seriously harmed in these outbreaks, and most recreational water venues are clean and safe. But Dr. Michael Beach, head of the CDC's healthy swimming program, offered pointers on "Good Morning America Weekend" to make sure your kids' next dip is a safe one.

Buy Chlorine Test Strips

There is no way you can look at the water and know for sure that there is a crypto outbreak. So go to your local store or pool supply store and buy chlorine and pH test strips to gauge the cleanliness. Know that chlorine is a good disinfectant but not a cure-all, and that crypto can survive for days.

Don't Swallow the Water

You teach your kids not to swallow their bath water, and it should be the same with the pool water. It's important for parents to monitor their kids, and Beach said a swimming pool is a huge communal bath. The symptoms for crypto usually appear a week later, so a lot of people often think, 'What did I eat last night?' instead of asking themselves, 'Where did I swim last week?'

Don't Swim While Sick

Children shouldn't go swimming when ill with diarrhea. Not only does it infect the water, they're also more vulnerable to getting sick.

Practice Good Hygiene

Take a shower and wash your hands before diving in. Change your baby's diapers in the bathroom instead of near the pool.