7 Things I Learned About Poop In The Pool From the CDC's Swimming App

by Melissa Kirsch
Originally Published: 
Peter Dutton/flickr

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, news comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that there’s a revolting diarrhea-causing parasite on the rise in pools and hot tubs. Called “cryptosporidium,” or “crypto” for short (isn’t it just like a shit parasite to have a cute little nickname that sounds like a Pixar character?), it can live up to 10 days in chlorinated water—compare this with E. coli, which was the only bacteria in water I was worried about before today and is killed in less than a minute in a properly treated pool.

At the CDC’s recommendation, I downloaded their Healthy Swimming app to “learn about the germs that we all bring into the places we swim.” While I object to the implication that I am one of the people bringing germs into the pool, I did learn a thing or two from the app that I did not know.

1. Many pool facilities use one filtration system for several pools, which means one person who ate bad clams casino last night can infect the entire waterpark.

2. Crypto has a tough outer shell, which is what permits it to fight, hope against hope, to stay alive and infectious in even a properly chlorinated pool.

3. The plastic pool at home can be its own petri dish of recreational water illnesses (RWIs, as they’re known in the disease control biz) because they don’t have chlorine or filters.

4. You shouldn’t drink the water in a public pool (I know you’re thinking, “There goes my prime means of hydrating this summer!”) and you also shouldn’t sit on the jets! That one I didn’t know. I guess it’s not a good idea to have a concentrated stream of potentially contaminated water shooting at you. Live and learn.

5. “Interactive fountains” that spray water all over the place are a blast for cooling off, but it was at one such “spraypark” in the summer of 2005 that 1,700 people may have been infected with 425 laboratory confirmed cases of crypto.

6. More than 1 in 5 American adults don’t know that swimming while ill with diarrhea can contaminate the water. I guess I was one of those 1 in 5, but the idea of swimming while I have diarrhea is so abhorrent I feel confident I have not contributed to the situation.

7. There are over 7.3 million hot tubs in operation in the United States. I’m not sure if that’s a lot or a little. But it’s a good piece of trivia you can use to segue from all the poop conversation this summer.

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