It is a fact that the human body is made up of more than two thirds of the human body weight. Doctors advice patients to drink at least eight glasses of water everyday to keep the body healthy. Without water we would die in thirst in just a few days. And so we drink water. Since water is such an important factor in the human body therefore the quality of water that you drink should just be as important as the quantity. Drinking water must always be clean and free of contaminants to ensure proper wellness.
People are also very fond of recreational water activities. Everyone is looking forward to the summer season, as this is the best time of the year for friends and families to gather together and enjoy the waters of the beaches, pools, spas, lakes, water parks and rivers where water illness is most common. While you are out there having the time of your life, you are also exposed to waterborne diseases.
Waterborne disease is caused by recreational or drinking water that is contaminated by disease-causing microbes or pathogens. Many people are unaware of how to protect themselves during recreational swimming activities. Waterborne disease is associated with recreational water illness common in pools, spas, water parks, etc.
What are Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)
Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) affect thousands of swimmers that use a recreational water facility. Many of these illnesses are caused by microorganisms that spread by swallowing or having contact with contaminated water that are commonly found in swimming pools, water parks, lakes, hot tubs, rivers, ocean and water play areas. These RWIs are very serious and should not be taken for granted as these illnesses contracted in recreational water facilities are in some cases, fatal.
There are four main disease causing microorganisms that are a serious threat to all water safety, these are; Crypto, Giardia, Shigella and E. Coli (O157:H7). Diarrhea is the most reported RWI. RWIs also include a wide variety of infections which include gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis, cystitis, hepatitis A and skin rashes.
Where Are Recreational Water Illnesses Found and How Do They Spread?
As mentioned earlier, RWIs are caused by germs and spread through infected water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, spas, oceans, lakes, and rivers .
Diarrhea is the most common recreational water illness. Swallowing contaminated water with feces containing germs can lead to diarrheal illness. When someone is ill with diarrhea, their stool holds millions of germs in it. That means that just one person with diarrhea who happens to share the pool, spas, or waterparks with you can easily contaminate the water. Swallowing even just a little amount of recreational water that has been contaminated with feces containing germs can make one sick.
The earlier mentioned four main disease causing microorganisms are not easily controlled by chlorine or other disinfectants. When these germs are released into the swimming pool by an infected individual water and safety of the swimmers are compromised.
Let’s discuss the four main microorganisms that cause recreational water illnesses.
1. Cryptosporidium or Crypto is the most common of all microorganisms that cause swimming pool outbreaks. The parasites called protozoon is commonly known as crypto and these parasites live in the intestines of the infected. Crypto germs can be released in a bowel movement in the form of diarrhea.
Crypto can be spread by putting something in your mouth or accidentally swallowing something that has come in contact with stool of the infected individual or animal.
Symptoms of crypto include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pains.
2. Giardia Lamblia or giardia is another potential form of recreational water illness. This is also a single celled microorganism like crypto. The incubation period for the infection is typically 9-15 days. Its acute stage usually begins with feelings intestinal uneasiness, nausea and anorexia. Fever and chills may also occur. Symptoms are associated with watery, foul-smelling, explosive diarrhea, belching and abdominal pains.
3. Shigella,is another bacteria that cause diarrhea in humans. This is also acquired in recreational water activities, and also present in diarrheal stool of the infected. Infection in the individual may last up to 2 weeks even after the diarrhea episodes are over. The symptoms are also in the form of fever, diarrhea often with blood at times and stomach pains that usually start a day or so after exposure of the bacteria. This bacteria can be effectively controlled by chlorine and other pool and spa chemicals.
4. Escherichia coli 0157:H7 or E. Coli 0157:H7 is the fourth recreational water illness. Just like the 3 mentioned bacteria this too can be present in diarrheal stool of the infected individual. And just like shigella this type of waterborne disease can be controlled by chlorine at normal levels. The bacteria of E. Coli 0157:H& can produce bloody diarrhea due to toxins it secrets when it infects human intestines. Symptoms may include stomach pains, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
We learned that the main illness that one can possibly get from RWIs is diarrhea. And RWIs are most common in your recreational water facilities. One cannot possibly tell if an individual has diarrheal illness and we cannot also know right away if the water facility is disease free until we acquire the illness.
If you and your family are planning to go to a public swimming pools, spas, beaches, lakes, rivers and he like always be ready to protect yourselves. Swimmers should also do their parts to keep germs from causing recreational water illnesses by:
• Not swimming when you have diarrhea. You can spread the germs in the water and infect other people.
• Avoid swallowing pool water or avoid getting pool water in your mouth
• Always practice good hygiene. Shower before swimming. Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet.
• Do not urinate in the pool or spas
• When symptoms of diarrhea is evident consult your physician before it’s too late.
Still the bottom line is practice hygiene and be conscious with cleanliness to be free with their waterborne diseases that you may find in these public recreational facilities.
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