Oh America, is there anything we love to do more than dip our diarrhea-filled bums into recreational sources of water? Apparently not! Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is once again warning sick people to please keep their literal asses away from swimming pools, lest they spread a hardy parasite called Crypto.
Last week, the CDC published a report looking at the recent trend of outbreaks caused by Crypto, more formally known as the microscopic protozoan Cryptosporidium. Between 2009 and 2017, they found, there were 444 reported Crypto outbreaks, totaling 7,465 cases, 285 hospitalizations, and one death. Over the same time period, outbreaks have been becoming more common, with an average 13 percent annual rise.
Like many stomach bugs, Crypto can cause watery diarrhea for up to three weeks, along with stomach cramps, vomiting, and dehydration. And while most people survive their ordeal with no lasting effects—some are lucky enough to have no symptoms at all—the bug can be much more dangerous and life-threatening for people with weakened immune systems.
Crypto is the leading cause of waterborne outbreaks in the U.S. It can be caught from handling farm livestock or from taking care of people, usually children, already sick with it. But the most common source of infection—accounting for 35 percent of outbreaks, according to the CDC report—are swimming pools and water playgrounds.
You might want to blame poorly maintained pools for these outbreaks, but Crypto is capable of surviving chlorine-treated water and surfaces for several days. And it only takes a few individual germs to make someone sick. No, the real monster here, as is often the case, is humanity.
For the most part, the victims and subsequent spreaders of Crypto tend to be the very young. Which is why the CDC’s warning is primarily aimed at parents.
“Young children can get seriously sick and easily spread Crypto. They don’t know how to use the toilet and wash their hands, or are just learning how. But we as parents can take steps to help keep our kids healthy in the water, around animals, and in childcare,” Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming program, said in a statement.
That being said, there have surely been outbreaks of Crypto and other waterborne outbreaks caused by older swimmers who should know better than to cannonball into a pool when they’re still trying to keep their shit together. So if either you or your kid has diarrhea, don’t go swimming in pools with other people this summer! And if you’ve been diagnosed with Crypto, wait at least two weeks after the last episode of diarrhea before heading back into the water.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking to avoid Crypto, the CDC recommends that you try not to swallow any swimming pool water.