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The CDC advises: Don’t swallow the water in a hotel swimming pool

Parasites and bacteria cause most of the swimming-related disease outbreaks

7:00am, May 18, 2018

WATER WOES  Hotel pools, public parks and water playgrounds were some of the venues that caused a lot of swimming-related disease outbreaks in 2000–2014.

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It’s vacation season — time for swimming pools, hot tubs and water parks. But you might want to think twice before getting wet, says a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 2000 to 2014, public health officials from 46 states and Puerto Rico reported 493 outbreaks associated with treated recreational water, resulting in more than 27,000 illnesses and eight deaths, according to a report in the May 18 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Hotel pools and hot tubs were the setting for about a third (32 percent) of the outbreaks, followed by public parks (23 percent), club/recreational facilities (14 percent) and water parks (11 percent).  

Most of the infections were from three organisms that can survive chlorine and other commonly used disinfectants: Cryptosporidium, a parasite that can cause gastrointestinal problems; Pseudomonas, a bacteria that causes swimmer’s ear; and Legionella, a bacteria that causes a pneumonia-like illness.

So, what to do? The CDC recommends a few steps before diving in: Don’t swallow pool water. Don’t let children with diarrhea in the water. And use test strips to measure levels of pH, bromine and chlorine in the water. The cleaner the water, the safer to swim.


M. Hlavsa et al. Outbreaks associated with treated recreational water — United States, 2000–2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vol. 67, May 18, 2018, p. 547.

Further Reading

E. Engelhaupt. This is what happens when you pee in the pool. Science News Online, April 8, 2014.

B. Mole. Legionnaires’ disease bacteria lurk in tap water. Science News Online, February, 21, 2014.

J. Raloff. DNA-damaging disinfection by-products found in pool water. Science News Online, September 13, 2010.

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