Recreational Water Illnesses on the Rise

By: Althea Paul
By: Althea Paul

July 7, 2005

A warning for swimmers looking to take a dip over the summer. The pool water you're diving into may not be as safe as you think.

To the naked eye, pool water can look clean. However, it may be anything but. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) has increased over the past several years. RWIs are spread by swallowing, breathing, or having contact with contaminated water.

The most commonly reported one is diarrhea, but symptoms vary.

"There are things as common as what is called swimming pool conjunctivitis, which is merely an irritation of the eyes, to something as serious as neglaria, which can actually cause death," said Roy Crewz, with the Thomas Jefferson Health District.

Experts with the CDC say there are three main ways to protect yourself. You should not swim if you have diarrhea. Do not swallow pool water, and practice good hygiene.

"It's very easy to excrete things in the water and perhaps not even know it," said Crewz.

Chlorine plays a huge role in killing off pool germs. It's the main reason facilities need to make sure their chlorine levels are up to par.

"It is very vital. It's vital from the standpoint of killing any bacteria that's in the water. Anything from e-coli to flu virus," said Charlottesville's Aquatic Coordinator, Keith Meyerl.

Most of the city's public pools are equipped with devices which automatically chlorinate the water.

Experts also say one of the best ways for swimmers to protect themselves against water illnesses is to check the loglist that pools have. It shows the times the pools were checked as well as their chlorine levels. These simple things could mean the difference between a good summer and a bad one.

According to the CDC, children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are most likely to suffer from more severe illnesses if infected.

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