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May 21, 2007

State public health director encourages healthy swimming practices and warns of water illness
May 21-27, 2007 National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week

SPRINGFIELD – As swimming pools, water parks and beaches prepare to open for the season during the Memorial Day weekend, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director, is encouraging healthy swimming behaviors to prevent water illnesses during National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week.

“Summer is just around the corner and many of us are looking forward to jumping in the pool, hitting a water park or going to the beach.  But you can get sick from the water if you are not careful,” said Dr. Whitaker.  “Now is the perfect time to learn what precautions to take to make sure you don’t contaminate the water and learn how to possibly identify problems with the water.”

Outbreaks of recreational water illnesses continue to occur in the United States each year.  Sixty-two percent of these outbreaks are related to the chlorine-resistant pathogen, Cryptosporidium, (“Crypto”) which is introduced into the pool by swimmers who are ill with diarrhea and spread to other swimmers when they swallow the contaminated water according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  These outbreaks underscore the continuing need to educate people about recreational water illness prevention to ensure a healthy swimming experience.

Awareness of recreational water illnesses (RWIs) and healthy swimming behaviors play an important role in stopping transmission of RWIs.  Germs on and in swimmers’ bodies end up in the water and can make other people sick.  Even healthy swimmers can get sick from RWIs, but the young, elderly, pregnant women and immunosuppressed persons are especially at risk. 

Specific actions you can take to promote healthy swimming include:
• Do not swim when you have diarrhea or have had it in the past 2 weeks.
• Do not swallow pool water or get pool water in your mouth.
• Shower before swimming (children too!)
• Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
• Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.
• Change children’s diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside.

There are also things you can look at to prevent recreational water illness.  You should notice:
• Clean and clear pool water; you should be able to clearly see any painted stripes and the bottom of the pool.
• Smooth pool sides; tiles should not be sticky or slippery.
• No odor; a well-chlorinated pool has little odor.  A strong chemical smell indicates a maintenance problem.
• Pool equipment working; pool pumps and filtration systems make noise and you should hear them running.

In order to minimize these risks, the Illinois Department of Public Health requires the state's 3,500 licensed swimming facilities to meet water quality and safety standards, including engineering design standards that apply to pools, spas, beaches,  water supplies, bather preparation areas, and water treatment systems.  The Department enforces these rules and regulations through plan approvals and inspections. 

For more information about recreational water illness prevention visit http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/swimmingpools.htm or http://www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.


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