Just when Americans believed they could enjoy fun in the sun this summer, a government agency reported hundreds of disease outbreaks at popular vacation spots. Families are now growing concerned about their safety and calling for such institutions to be held accountable.
The CDC recently announced that over 27,000 infections and eight deaths have resulted from contaminated water. Hotel pools and hot tubs were found to be the main culprits, but spas and waterparks were also part of the statistic. To make matters worse, the agency says that these numbers likely underestimate the actual incidence rates.
About 20% of inspections in 2013 identified improper cleanliness for maintaining recreational water safety, as found by the CDC. Inadequate sanitation has resulted in about 500 disease outbreaks across 46 states and Puerto Rico, including cases of Cryptosporidium, Legionella, and Pseudomonas.
The heat of the summer months comprised the most occurrences, as the warmth creates a breeding ground for germs. With sufficient upkeep, however, dissemination of many contagions may be prevented.
Lurking in the Depths
According to the National Institutes of Health, the bacteria Legionella may spur a potentially fatal form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease. In fact, it has caused at least six of the eight reported deaths. Those who inhale contaminants, mostly through the steam of hot tubs and spas, may acquire the condition. Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as smokers and those with cancer or lung complications, face an increased risk.
Cryptosporidium is a single-celled parasite that settles in the walls of the host’s intestines, producing gastrointestinal disruptions, as noted by the Mayo Clinic. Here, it multiplies and sheds in substantial quantities into the feces, infecting anything in which it makes contact. Through recreational water, it spreads mainly when swimmers, especially young children, enter while suffering from diarrhea.
Certain strains are often resistant to disinfectants and can survive over seven days in pools. Thus, the CDC advises that those with bouts of diarrhea avoid entering the area for at least two weeks following healing.
Pseudomonas is transmitted through contact with the skin. As explained by Medical News Today, the bacteria triggers red and itchy skin rashes. It also may lead to swimmer’s ear, causing pain and itching for 2.4 million people per year.
The CDC recommends that swimmers check inspection scores before booking a hotel, visiting the spa, or purchasing park tickets. They also warn never to swallow the liquid.
Some may even decide to check the water themselves, as many stores sell inexpensive chlorine and pH test strips. Chlorine is the main chemical responsible for sanitizing pools, killing many pathogens in minutes. Insufficient levels enable many germs to multiply and spread illness.
Increased knowledge on prevention and behavior of microorganisms will help halt future maladies. As vacationers enjoy their summer, unease may be relieved when proper precautions are taken. As for business owners, they’ll do their part once consumers start holding them accountable.