Everyone can do their part to prevent the spread of recreational water illnesses in public pools.
Such illnesses are caused by the spread of germs from swallowing, breathing in mists of or otherwise coming in contact with contaminated bodies of water, such as swimming pools. Recreational water illnesses can run the gamut from skin to neurological infections.
Pregnant women, children and individuals with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to these infections, health officials say.
For public pools like the ones at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville, staff take extra precautions to make sure that the waters are safe for swimmers.
“(When the pool is open) we actually test the water every two hours to make sure that chlorine levels are within health department ranges,” said Jone Taylor, Gainesville recreation division manager.
“We have an automatic chlorine feeder that keeps up with that, but we do additional testing.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, chlorine kills the germs that can cause water-born illnesses, but it can take different amounts of time to kill the various types.
For example the germ crypto — which causes diarrhea, one of the most common water illnesses — can live in a properly disinfected pool for several days.
Because it can take hours and even days to kill some germs in the water, the best way to stop the spread of germs is to prevent them from entering water in the first place.
“We try and educate the public as best we can. For example, we ask people who have diarrhea to not swim, and if parents have to change diapers, we ask them not to do it poolside,” Taylor said.
“We also require that children under 3 wear a swim diaper and plastic pants under their bathing suit.”
Pool users should practice good hygiene like showering with soap before entering the pool and washing hands after bathroom trips before re-entering the pool, Georgia Department of Community Health officials say.
Recreational water users should take the same precautions in interactive fountains, water play areas, lakes, rivers and even the ocean.