Preventing recreational water illnesses - – Rockford’s News Leader

Preventing recreational water illnesses


May 20 through May 26 is Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week in Illinois and the state's department of public health is giving tips on how to stay safe.

Pools are beginning to open for Memorial Day weekend and the Illinois Department of Public Health is reminding swimmers to focus on hygiene and take an active role in protecting themselves and preventing the spread of germs.

"While swimming is a great source of exercise, if you are not careful, you may end up sick," IDPH Director Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck said.  "You can get sick from germs floating in lakes, rivers and even swimming pools.  Take the time during Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week to learn how to avoid illness and help prevent others from becoming ill, before you jump in the water."

The most common recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs like Crypto (Cryptosporidium), Giardia, E. coli 1057:H7, and Shigella. They are spread when someone accidentally swallows water that had been contaminated with fecal matter. Although most germs are killed by chlorine, some are resistant and can live in pools for days, no matter how well the pool is kept.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 58 percent of water samples taken from filters at public pools tested positive for E. coli, which is normally found in human feces.

The IDPH recommends the following steps to protect yourself and prevent the spread of germs:

  • Do not swim within 14 days of having diarrhea
  • Do not swallow pool water
  • Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the restroom or changing diapers—germs on your body end up in the water
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers frequently—all children who are not toilet-trained must wear swim diapers
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or diaper-changing area, not poolside
  • Wash children thoroughly with soap and water before they swim

Pools are not the only source of RWIs, lakes and rivers can also pose a threat. The most common sources of disease-causing organisms in those cases are sewage overflows, polluted storm water runoff, sewage treatment plant malfunctions, boating wastes, and malfunctioning septic systems. Beach water is often the most polluted both during and immediately after rainstorms.

To stay safe in a lake, river, or at a beach, follow these tips:

  • Avoid swimming after a heavy rain
  • Look for storm drains (pipes draining polluted water from streets) along the beach and do not swim near them
  • Look for trash and other signs of pollution like oil slicks in the water, they could indicate the presence of disease-causing microorganisms

For a list of beach closures, advisories, and test results for licensed beaches, click here. For more information on RWI prevention, click here.

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