Research – Cryptosporidium, Pseudomonas and Legionella responsible for most outbreaks in swimming venues including hotel swimming pools

The figure is a visual abstract that details illnesses associated with recreational water and recommends how to stay healthy when swimming.

CDC-Outbreaks Associated with Treated Recreational Water — United States, 2000–2014

Outbreaks associated with exposure to treated recreational water can be caused by pathogens or chemicals in venues such as pools, hot tubs/spas, and interactive water play venues (i.e., water playgrounds). During 2000–2014, public health officials from 46 states and Puerto Rico reported 493 outbreaks associated with treated recreational water. These outbreaks resulted in at least 27,219 cases and eight deaths. Among the 363 outbreaks with a confirmed infectious etiology, 212 (58%) were caused by Cryptosporidium (which causes predominantly gastrointestinal illness), 57 (16%) by Legionella (which causes Legionnaires’ disease, a severe pneumonia, and Pontiac fever, a milder illness with flu-like symptoms), and 47 (13%) by Pseudomonas (which causes folliculitis [“hot tub rash”] and otitis externa [“swimmers’ ear”]). Investigations of the 363 outbreaks identified 24,453 cases; 21,766 (89%) were caused by Cryptosporidium, 920 (4%) by Pseudomonas, and 624 (3%) by Legionella. At least six of the eight reported deaths occurred in persons affected by outbreaks caused by Legionella. Hotels were the leading setting, associated with 157 (32%) of the 493 outbreaks. Overall, the outbreaks had a bimodal temporal distribution: 275 (56%) outbreaks started during June–August and 46 (9%) in March. Assessment of trends in the annual counts of outbreaks caused by Cryptosporidium, Legionella, or Pseudomonas indicate mixed progress in preventing transmission. Pathogens able to evade chlorine inactivation have become leading outbreak etiologies. The consequent outbreak and case counts and mortality underscore the utility of CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code (https://www.cdc.gov/mahc) to prevent outbreaks associated with treated recreational water.

Hlavsa MC, Cikesh BL, Roberts VA, et al. Outbreaks Associated with Treated Recreational Water — United States, 2000–2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:547–551. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6719a3

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