July 31, 2008 — -- An unwanted, creepy visitor may be lurking in the cool pool you are using for relief from the summertime heat. Cryptosporidium, commonly known as crypto, is a chlorine-resistant parasite and its infection rates are on the rise, as Jenni Broomhead learned last summer after throwing a party at a public pool where 40 people ended up getting ill.
"I hadn't heard of it. I didn't even know the name of it," Broomhead said. "It was an awful, awful thing. The kids — I had 18- and 19-year-olds tearing up, curled up on the floor for an entire day."
She and other parents paid thousands of dollars in medical bills for children who had to be treated at the hospital.
Pools, ponds and other bodies of water can host crypto, which when ingested can cause an illness for up to two weeks. Symptoms can include bouts of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fevers.
The troublesome bugs are often found in human and animal feces and easily transmitted into water. Crypto, which travels in a hard outer shell that makes it chlorine-resistant, has caused problems in several areas.
"We have a bug in the pools that's resistant to the major barrier that kills most of the germs that gets transmitted," said Michael Beach, of the CDC.
According to the Center for Disease Control, crypto cases have doubled in recent years. In fact, Phoenix shut down all of its public pools after a 100 people got sick earlier this summer and last year, more than 2,000 people in Utah were stricken by the parasite in a state-wide outbreak.
Also, a 2005 outbreak at a spray park in Seneca Lake State Park in New York caused more than 4,000 people to seek medical attention.
Some pools have enacted safety measures to help combat crypto. Seven Peaks Water Park in Provo, Utah spent $250,000 on an ultraviolet system that kills the parasite using black light.
But Beach said more has to be done.
"They are not the perfect answer to this though. We still have to get the public to understand their role in preventing the initial contamination of the water," he said.
Utah officials also now require diaper-aged children to wear swim diapers or waterproof pants in public pools, even though they are not fail-safe. Also, anybody who's had diarrhea is asked not swim for two weeks afterward.
The thought of crypto doesn't have to ruin your pool plans. Check out the tips below to learn how you can protect yourself.
To learn more about how to keep your pool safe visit healthyswimming.org.