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Waterborne illnesses increasing at public pools

Updated:
ATLANTA (AP) -- With the summer swimming season approaching, government health officials Thursday began a campaign to warn of the rise in illnesses caused by contaminated public pools.

The outbreaks generally led to stomach problems and diarrhea caused by bacteria and parasites and were mostly caused by children having fecal accidents in the water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

"People need to remember that swimming is essentially communal bathing and the water is not clean and you can transmit diseases if
the water is contaminated," said Rachel Barwick, an epidemiologist in the division of parasitic diseases at the CDC.

She said swimming water should never be swallowed because chlorine does not kill all germs. And anyone with diarrhea should
not swim.

Barwick also cautioned about proper washing before entering the pool and said diapers should not be changed at poolside.

In 1997 and 1998, the most recent years for which figures are available, 2,128 people were sickened by the water at public pools.
In '98 alone there were 25 outbreaks, the highest number since 1992.

The CDC had better news about drinking water Thursday, reporting that scientists are seeing fewer illnesses caused by municipal
systems.

Outbreaks involving drinking water systems have fallen dramatically from a peak of more than 50 cases in 1980 to 10 in 1998. The CDC said the credit could go to stricter government
regulations and increased effort by local water suppliers.

Still, more than 2,000 people became sick from their drinking water in 1997 and 1998, the CDC said.

Contaminated wells and groundwater were mostly to blame.

The worst outbreak was in Texas in July 1998, when 160,000 gallons of raw sewage seeped into an aquifer providing water to five municipal wells, sickening 1,400 people.


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