Diarrhea-Inducing Parasite in Public Pools: How to Protect Yourself

People pee in swimming pools – that probably doesn’t come as a shock to you. You tuck it in the back of your mind when you go swimming; but you when you accidentally swallow a mouthful of pool water, you know you’re getting more than H2O and chlorine. Well, there’s another threat lurking in public swimming pools. It’s a diarrhea-inducing parasite called cryptosporidium, and federal officials said back in May that cases of the bug are on the rise.

Source: CDC

Outbreaks of cryptosporidium (Crypto) doubled between 2014 and 2016, including three that occurred last year, according to the CDC. There were at least 32 outbreaks in 2016, compared to 16 outbreaks in 2014, and 13 the year before. [1]

In a statement, the agency said:

“The parasite can spread when people swallow something that has come into contact with the feces (poop) of a sick person, such as pool water contaminated with diarrhea.” [1]

Suddenly Netflix and A/C sound very inviting.

The CDC added:

“Crypto is the most common cause of diarrheal illness and outbreaks linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds because it is not easily killed by chlorine and can survive up to 10 days in properly treated water.

Swallowing just a mouthful of water contaminated with Crypto can make otherwise healthy people sick for up to three weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting, and can lead to dehydration.” [1]

Read: Watch Out: Thousands of Pools Close Due to Health Violations

Don’t rely on chlorine to clean up the poop: Even proper chlorination doesn’t kill Crypto. [2]

The most heavily-affected state was Ohio, with 1,940 people being sickened by the parasite in 2016, compared to less than 600 in any previous year.

It’s not clear why Crypto cases are on the rise. The CDC said:

“It is not clear whether the number of outbreaks has increased or whether better surveillance and laboratory methods are leading to better outbreak detection.”[2]

The agency wrote that the youngest swimmers are the most likely to infect pools with Crypto.

“Young swimmers aged under 5 years are more likely to contaminate the water because they are more likely to have inadequate toileting and hygiene skills; therefore, prevention efforts should focus on their parents.” [1]

Source: Nature

Regardless of age, many people continue swimming even when they’re symptomatic.

Once a pool has been infected, Crypto spreads easily and is stubborn against efforts to eradicate it. In chlorinated water, Crypto can survive for up to 10 days, and it only takes a small gulp of water to become infected. The only way to rid a swimming pool of the parasite is to close the pool and treat it with extremely high, extremely toxic levels of chlorine. [2], [3]

Michele Hlavsa, R.N., M.P.H., chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, said in a statement:

“To help protect your family and friends from Crypto and other diarrhea-causing germs, do not swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea. Protect yourself from getting sick by not swallowing the water in which you swim.” [3]

(Hopefully, if you’re an adult, this goes without saying.)

The CDC also offered these tips for staying Crypto-free this summer:

  • If diarrhea is found to be caused by Crypto, wait 2 weeks after symptoms have subsided before going swimming.
  • Rinse off in the shower before getting in the water to help remove any germs on your body that could contaminate the pool.
  • Take children on frequent bathroom breaks, and check diapers in a diaper-changing area, not right next to the pool.


[1] NBC News

[2] The Washington Post

[3] CBS News



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The FDA Wants this Highly Addictive Opioid Taken off the Market

On June 8, 2017, the FDA requested that the drug-maker Endo Pharmaceuticals stop selling Opana ER – the extended-release version of Opana – because of “public health consequences of abuse.” It is the first time the agency has made efforts to pull an opioid from the market due to its highly addictive nature. [1]

According to the FBI, Opana ER is becoming a popular drug to crush, dissolve, and inject. An outbreak of HIV, Hepatitis C, and a serious blood disorder have been fueled by drug users sharing needles.

In March 2017, an FDA advisory committee voted that Opana ER’s benefits no longer outweighed its risks. [2]

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says:

“We are facing an opioid epidemic – a public health crisis, and we must take all necessary steps to reduce the scope of opioid misuse and abuse.

We will continue to take regulatory steps when we see situations where an opioid product’s risks outweigh its benefits, not only for its intended patient population but also in regard to its potential for misuse and abuse.” [1]

Endo said in a statement that the company is “reviewing the request and is evaluating the full range of potential options as we determine the appropriate path forward.”

But the company defended Opana ER for its ability to do what it is intended. It said:

“As a pharmaceutical company with a demonstrated commitment to the improvement of pain management, Endo feels a strong sense of responsibility to improve the care of pain for patients, while at the same time taking comprehensive steps to minimize the potential misuse of its products.”

Read: FDA Takes Major Steps to Address Growing Opioid Crisis

This is Endo’s one and only chance to cooperate, though. If the company refuses to voluntarily recall Opana ER, the FDA will revoke the painkiller’s market approval.

The FDA says:

“In the interim, the FDA is making health care professionals and others aware of the particularly serious risks associated with the abuse of this product.”

Opana ER won FDA approval in 2006. It was designed to be swallowed and to slowly release the medication into the bloodstream over several hours. But when it is snorted or inject, it gives the user a powerful high.

As the brain becomes acclimated to the euphoric feelings, more and more of the drug is required to produce the same levels of pain relief and well-being, leading to dependence, and eventually addiction. [2]

The drug is twice as powerful as OxyContin, another potent opioid that has led many drug abusers down the path to heroin addiction.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control

Read: Washington City Sues OxyContin Maker Over Opioid Epidemic

Endo reformulated Opana ER in 2012 by adding a coating with the stated purpose of making the pills harder to snort or inject. Other opioid manufacturers have taken similar steps in recent years as the opioid epidemic ballooned into a full-blown crisis. [1]

The FDA said it decided to ask Endo to take Opana ER off the market after the agency reviewed all post-market data on the drug and found that when Endo reformulated the drug, people were injecting it more than they were snorting it. [2]

But the move seems to have backfired, as outbreaks of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other diseases sparked by people injecting Opana ER continued to spiral out of control.

Opana ER was the drug of choice for many addicts at the center of an HIV outbreak in Indiana in 2015.

Read: Even the “Safest” of RX Opioids Highly Addictive, Says Experts

Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says:

“When we determined that the product had dangerous unintended consequences, we made a decision to request its withdrawal from the market.

This action will protect the public from further potential for misuse and abuse of this product.” [1]

In 2015, opioid overdose killed more than 33,000 people in the U.S., more than any year on record. Close to half of those deaths involved some type of prescription drug. [2]


[1] NPR

[2] CNN

U.S. Centers for Disease Control

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