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CDC Report Shows Crypto Cases on the Rise. What Event Owners Should Know When Choosing Sites for Swimming Events

20 Sep, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

It's definitely something in the water. Between the brain-eating amoeba and cyanobacteria, plenty of water-borne illnesses have been making headlines and giving planners another reason to be extra-cautious.

The specter of the chlorine-resistant organism, cryptosporidium, hasn’t helped either. A microscopic parasite that causes an intestinal illness known as cryptosporidiosis, crypto, as it’s nicknamed, has been causing increasing problems in pools, water parks and splash pads nationwide. And while it generally doesn’t have a fatal outcome, its prevalence has resulted in special attention from the CDC. Here’s what planners should know.

According to an article in Aqua Magazine, outbreaks of cryptosporidium in public pools, splash pads and waterparks doubled between 2014 and 2016. This news comes from a report by the Centers for Disease Control.

According to the CDC, examples of large Crypto outbreaks in the United States were as follows:

In 2016, Alabama, Arizona, Ohio, and other states investigated and controlled Crypto outbreaks linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds. 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. Arizona identified 352 people sick with Crypto for July–October 2016, compared with no more than 62 cases for any one year in 2011–2015. Ohio identified 1,940 people sick with Crypto in 2016, compared with no more than 571 cases for any one year in 2012–2015. And while the CDC also notes that an awareness of crypto may also be a factor in the number of diagnoses, it’s more important to take precautions than it is to argue semantics.

Unfortunately, most venues are not aware of the organisms’ presence until a diagnosis of crypto is made, and then reactive steps need to be taken. Chlorine in any regular dose will not affect crypto, and superchlorinating a pool or water parks means the facility has to be shut down for several hours.

The article in Aqua notes, “In order to kill crypto as it is introduced to the water, the system must have a properly sized and installed ozone system that eliminates the organism before it's ingested.” Ozone is a powerful oxidizer and kills crypto by the chemical process known as lysing.

In addition, the article notes, “manufacturers of UV systems also lay claim to effectively ridding water of the pathogen. In contrast to ozone, UV disinfects by deactivating the DNA of bacteria and oocysts, such as crypto, rendering the pathogens unable to reproduce. UV light also differs as a sanitizer from ozone or chlorine in that it does not oxidize organic compounds; it only disinfects as water passes through the UV chamber and can be impacted by turbidity. The use of UV gained a boost back in 2006 when the EPA issued its Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, which defined guidelines for using UV to treat public water.”

That might be a little more chemistry than many event owners are ready for, but in short, it pays to ask a prospective venue whether any cases of crypto have ever been reported, and what method(s) of testing, disinfection and filtration are being used to keep the water safe. Knowing this information can go a long way toward reassuring athletes and their families that all possible precautions are being taken.

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