Atlanta, GA–A third of treated recreational waterborne disease outbreaks during 2000 through 2014 occurred in hotel pools or hot tubs, according to a latest report published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Cryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”), Pseudomonas, and Legionella caused most of the outbreaks in swimming venues in the United States during this time period. Crypto is a parasite tough enough to survive even in properly maintained pools. Pseudomonas and Legionella are bacteria that can survive disinfectants in slimy areas of hot tubs, pools, and water playgrounds.
The 493 outbreaks reported during this period resulted in at least 27,219 illnesses and eight deaths. The number of respiratory disease outbreaks caused by Legionella increased over time and skin infection outbreaks caused by Pseudomonas decreased over time. Diarrheal disease outbreaks caused by Cryptosporidium leveled off during 2008 through 2014. More than half of outbreaks started in the summer, the peak season for swimming.
Crypto causes 58 percent of outbreaks where a germ was identified linked to pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds and 89 percent of the illnesses. Crypto spreads in pools when someone sick with the parasite has diarrhea in the water and other swimmers swallow that contaminated water. Swimmers and parents of young swimmers play an essential role in preventing Crypto outbreaks.
The bacteria Legionella and Pseudomonas are the next most leading causes of these outbreaks, with 16 percent of outbreaks caused by Legionella and 13 percent caused by Pseudomonas. Legionella can cause severe pneumonia and symptoms similar to the flu. Pseudomonas can cause hot tub rash and swimmer’s ear.
Some people are more likely to get sick from Legionella, including people 50 years or older, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease, and people with a weakened immune system. These people should see a doctor right away if they develop pneumonia symptoms and let the doctor know about any possible exposures to Legionella, including recent hot tub use.