Practice healthy swimming to prevent spread of Crypto, other waterborne illnesses

Shannon Barbare, Communications Specialist | 303-692-2036 |
DENVER— As summer heats up and more people head to the pool, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reminds people to protect themselves from recreational waterborne illnesses such as cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) and giardiasis (Giardia).
Crypto and Giardia are parasites that cause intestinal illness. Crypto easily spreads through water and is hard to kill, even in properly chlorinated pools. The parasites live in the guts of infected people and animals and are passed through feces (poop).
“Swallowing contaminated swimming water is one of the most common ways Crypto spreads,” said Nicole Comstock, who manages the enteric disease program for the department. ”We want people to know what they can do to minimize their risk of getting sick and spreading disease.”
Crypto and Giardia are spread not only by swallowing water (from swimming) but also from eating food contaminated by feces from infected people or animals, even in tiny amounts that can’t be seen. The infections also can spread from person to person and from touching surfaces or objects contaminated with feces from an infected person and then touching your mouth without washing your hands first.
The illnesses can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. Symptoms typically begin two days to four weeks (one week on average) after swallowing the parasite, and can come and go for a month or longer. People are contagious from the time symptoms start until at least two weeks after the symptoms go away. The only way to diagnose these illnesses is to be tested by a health care provider. The diseases can be serious for people with weakened immune systems.
The state and Tri-County health departments continue to investigate whether illness is linked to a June 11-13 incident at Water World, during which untreated pond water might have contaminated pools and drinking fountains or might have been used to make food, ice and drinks at the park. Two people who visited Water World during that time have been diagnosed with Crypto, and one person has been diagnosed with Giardia. Public health agencies are investigating whether these illnesses are associated with their visits to Water World. Water World resolved the water contamination issue, and there does not appear to be ongoing contamination. If you visited Water World Colorado on June 11, 12 or 13 and experienced symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea or stomach issues after your visit, call the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at 303-692-2700.
 To help prevent Crypto, Giardia and other recreational water illnesses
  • Practice healthy swimming:
    • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
    • If you know or suspect you might have Crypto or Giardia, do not swim while you are sick with diarrhea and stay out of the pool for two weeks after the diarrhea is gone.
    • Shower before you get in the water.
    • Change diapers away from poolside.
    • Take kids on bathroom breaks every hour.
    • Don’t swallow water you swim in.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom and changing diapers and before preparing and eating food.
  • Stay home from work, school, day care and summer camp if you are sick.
  • Avoid sexual activity if you are sick with diarrhea.
  • If you are sick and your symptoms are not going away, check with your health care provider.
If you want to know more about Crypto, Giardia or the Water World incident, call CO-HELP at 1-877-462-2911 (or 303-389-1687).