It’s All About Diarrhea During Healthy and Safe Swimming Week 2017

Click image for more promotional items on healthy swimming from the CDC.

The thirteenth annual Healthy and Safe Swimming Week is happening this week, May 22–28. Every year in the week leading up to Memorial Day–—the kickoff to the summer swim season–—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promotes tips, resources, and guidelines for how swimmers, parents of young swimmers, and aquatic professionals can put health and safety first when it comes to summer water activities. This observance is a great time for local health departments to spread the word about the important steps their communities should take to prevent illness, drowning, and pool chemical injuries.

This year’s theme is “Diarrhea & Swimming Don’t Mix,” in light of new CDC data released last week that showed U.S. cryptosporidiosis outbreaks linked to swimming have doubled since 2014. Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal illness caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium, which can live for up to 10 days in properly maintained swimming pools—making it an ongoing challenge for aquatic venues such as pools and water playgrounds. The increase in reported outbreaks might represent a true increase in the number of U.S. outbreaks or better outbreak detection, due to improvements in surveillance and laboratory methods.

To help prevent outbreaks, it’s important to keep diarrhea-causing germs out of the pool in the first place by not swimming or letting kids swim if sick with diarrhea.

“It only takes one person with diarrhea to contaminate all of the water in a large pool,” said Michele Hlavsa, RN, MPH, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program.  “Swallowing just one mouthful of contaminated water can make a swimmer sick for up to 3 weeks.”

One important way health departments can participate in Healthy and Safe Swimming Week is to take advantage of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) Network. This network aims to increase use of the MAHC, an extensive resource developed by the CDC, state and local public health partners, and aquatics professionals. The MAHC provides science- and best practices-based guidance on decreasing the risk of illness (including diarrhea), drowning, and pool chemical injury at public aquatic facilities.  NACCHO and CDC host bimonthly webinars for the network, which highlight examples, challenges, and successes with adopting the MAHC from state and local health departments. If you aren’t already signed up, consider joining the MAHC Network today!

The May 24 webinar will feature Dr. Laura Suppes, assistant professor in the Environmental Public Health Program at the University of Wisconsin, and Hlavsa, from CDC. Dr. Suppes will highlight important strategies for preventing Cryptosporidium transmission in aquatic venues, while Hlavsa will give an overview of CDC’s Healthy and Safe Swimming Week activities.

CDC’s Healthy Swimming website offers many resources for public health professionals, swimmers, residential pool/hot tub owners, and healthcare and aquatic professionals. Local and state health departments can order and promote CDC’s free print and online materials. Health departments can also engage in and share the social media messages from CDC’s healthy swimming Twitter chat, scheduled for Monday, May 22 from 12:00-1:00 pm ET. All the tweets from this chat can be viewed and shared by searching #HealthySwimChat.

And last but not least, stay tuned! The Council for the MAHC (CMAHC), which relays national input on updating the model code, is hosting its biennial conference October 17–18, 2017. Conference attendees will review and discuss change requests submitted for the third edition of the code, scheduled for release in 2018. You can view the submitted change requests and change request member comments, but only CMAHC members can vote on the change requests. Join the CMAHC today to ensure your voice is heard during these important discussions.

For more information, visit NACCHO’s webpages MAHC Network, MAHC fact sheet and Policy Statement on Recreational Water Safety and the CDC’s webpages on Healthy Swimming and the MAHC.

About Anastasia Sonneman

Anastasia Sonneman serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in environmental health, health and disability, and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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