As the summer months near, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning families to protect themselves and their children from the parasite cryptosporidium, known as "crypto."
>Parasite cryptosporidium, known as "crypto." (CDC)
The CDC said today it is aware of at least 32 outbreaks caused by the parasite last year at swimming pools or water playgrounds in the United States, compared with 16 outbreaks in 2014.
In 2016, Alabama, Arizona, Ohio, and other states investigated and controlled Crypto outbreaks at swimming pools or water playgrounds, according to the CDC.
"Those outbreaks highlight the ongoing challenges that treated recreational water venues have with crypto due to how difficult it is to kill and the small number of germs that can make people sick," the agency said.
The highly-contagious parasite, which is not easily killed with chlorine and can survive up to 10 days in treated water, is spread when people swallow something that has come into contact with the feces of a sick person, such as pool water contaminated with diarrhea.
Symptoms of crypto infection include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting, which can lead to dehydration. The illness can last up to three weeks.
"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," said Michele Hlavsa, R.N., M.P.H., chief of CDC's Healthy Swimming Program. "Protect yourself from getting sick by not swallowing the water in which you swim."
The CDC provides the following tips for avoiding crypto infection:
Don't swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
If diarrhea is caused by crypto, wait until two weeks after diarrhea has stopped to go swimming.
Don't swallow the water in which you swim.
Rinse off in the shower before getting in the water to help remove any germs on your body that could contaminate the water.
Take kids on bathroom breaks often, and check diapers in a diaper-changing area and not right next to the pool.