As one indication of how far the industry still has to go in
efforts to prevent recreational water illnesses, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention reported in September a 72 percent
increase in outbreaks over the previous two-year tally — and
the largest number of such outbreaks ever recorded for a two-year
The report, which received a significant amount of media attention,
shows that from January 2007 through December 2008, 134
recreational water illness outbreaks were reported in 38 of the 50
states and Puerto Rico. That included 12 outbreaks in Minnesota, 11
in Florida and eight in New York. By comparison, 2005-06 saw 78
outbreaks in 31 states. The median number of individual cases
linked with an outbreak was 11.
The biggest driver of the increase was the parasite
cryptosporidium. Finalized data, compiled from reports by
state health agencies, indicates that nearly half the outbreaks
were caused by crypto, which can cause severe stomach and
intestinal issues. Complete findings and analysis are detailed in
two Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Summaries, available
Including the crypto cases, more than 13,966 documented
cases of RWIs were recorded for the 2007-08 period. Eight of those
victims died, though all from fresh water-related illness. In the
previous two-year span, 4,412 people were sickened, with five
eventually dying, all from treated water settings.
“We really try to emphasize that there are three
stakeholders,” said epidemiologist Michele Hlavsa, chief of
the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, referring to aquatics
facility operators, public health officials and the swimming
Treating crypto requires operators and public health
officials to do their part, but because crypto is not
killed via regular chlorination, patrons also need to be aware of
safe swimming behaviors.
Hlavsa also noted that of the 134 outbreaks, 116 (approximately 85
percent) were linked to treated water and almost 50 percent of the
116 were associated with settings where recreation is not the
primary focus, such as apartment complex pools. That indicates
aquatics professionals need to focus more attention on improving
pool operation in those types of facilities, she added.
National media outlets, including ABC News and WebMD, reported the
2007-08 statistics and data for 2009-10 are expected to be released
in the next year.