If you’re a fan of explosive diarrhea, summer is a great time to catch it. Between Cryptosporidium, which can survive in chlorinated swimming pools, and cyclosporiasis, which recently sickened at least 20 people in an outbreak linked to contaminated broccoli, you have plenty of opportunities.
Crypto is a parasite that can spread in swimming pools
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Now, I am not suggesting that we all avoid swimming pools. Pools are wonderful ways to beat the heat, have fun, learn to swim, and more. But I am begging you not to go into a pool if you have recently had diarrhea.
The chlorine in swimming pools will kill most infectious germs that make their way in there. But Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite with a protective outer shell. It can survive in chlorinated pools long enough to get people sick, and it isn’t easily killed by hand sanitizer, either. The disease it causes is called cryptosporidiosis.
The CDC says that if you have tested positive for crypto, you should stay out of pools for two weeks. A recent case study on a swim team found that the parasite spread from one team (where 19 of 50 members ended up falling ill) to the members of two different teams that they competed against. The members felt well enough to compete, but were still infectious.
The CDC also asks that you please not poop in pools, not swallow pool water, and that you check children’s swim diapers every hour to avoid spreading diarrheal diseases.
Cyclosporiasis can spread via food or water
Despite the similar name, Cyclospora (which causes cyclosporiasis) is an entirely different type of diarrhea-causing microscopic parasite that tends to spread in the summertime. Reported cases tend to peak in June and July, the CDC says. This year, there have already been over 200 cases. One cluster in Georgia and Alabama was linked to raw broccoli; the others are of unknown cause.
The Cyclospora parasite has a life cycle that only partially takes place in the human body. After you have your diarrhea, the parasites need to mature (“sporulate”) before they can be infectious to others. This takes a few weeks. So you can’t pass the parasite directly to another person, as you can with crypto.
Instead, the parasite tends to reach its victims through contaminated food or water. Past outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to raspberries, basil, snow peas, mesclun lettuce, and cilantro. Obviously, you should avoid drinking any water that may have been contaminated by human feces. The CDC also recommends washing your produce (including using a scrub brush on hard produce like potatoes) and promptly refrigerating cut fruits and vegetables.