Swimming pools are a breeding ground for disease. Cryptosporidium is a potentially dangerous illness transmitted commonly in pools and water features and can live in properly chlorinated pools for more than 10 days. In addition to monitoring pools, it is important to check hot tubs, water fountains and other water features.
With warm summer days upon us, water amenities are often the highlight of golf and country clubs, as members and their families look for ways to cool off, National Underwriters (NU) Property & Casualty reported. Yet the warmer weather also brings the potential for dangerous parasites to infect pools and water features. Managing water-borne illnesses like cryptosporidium is a major risk-management concern for clubs.
Cryptosporidium, or “crypto,” is a potentially dangerous illness transmitted commonly in pools and water features, Property & Casualty reported. Incidents are increasing at an alarming 13 percent per year, peaking in July and August.
Crypto is found in fecal matter and can live in properly chlorinated pools for more than 10 days. It infects a person when they drink contaminated water, Property & Casualty reported. The infected swimmer then excretes the parasite at very high rates, much higher than what is necessary to spread the illness.
The virus is especially dangerous for children, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems, causing profuse diarrhea, dehydration and other ailments for up to three weeks, Property & Casualty reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2009-2017, more than 7,465 people were infected, and a third of those cases were from recreational facilities.
Other viruses of concern, which are more easily controlled with chlorine, are E. coli, Giardia and Hepatitis A, Property & Casualty reported. They can survive in chlorine up to 45 minutes, making it crucial to check water levels on a regular basis. Having a pool safety checklist for staff members to use would greatly assist in this effort.
What can a club owner do to prevent an outbreak at their club?
When working with insureds in this area, National Underwriters recommends they have a solid Recreational Water Illness Plan in place. Staff should be trained in the critical role of water testing and what to do if pH levels are not appropriate, Property & Casualty reported. Clubs should have a written policy for fecal accidents, records of pH levels and how to disinfect when there is an occurrence.
Since chlorine does not kill the cryptovirus for many days, club owners should talk with an aquatics specialist about hyperchlorinating their pools on a regular basis, Property & Casualty reported.
If an outbreak is suspected, it may be more efficient in some cases to drain the pool, disinfect all surfaces and filters, and replace with non-infected water, Property & Casualty reported. Hydrogen peroxide and bleach will kill the parasite.
The other critical way to reduce the potential for an outbreak is to educate guests on the importance of following pool rules, Property & Casualty reported. Club owners should clearly post and distribute rules that ask guests to not swallow pool water, not enter the pool if they are experiencing diarrhea, have children take frequent bathroom breaks, and change diapers in the bathroom. Many guests avoid the bathroom because they feel they are wet and unsanitary, so it is imperative that changing areas are cleaned frequently.
In addition to monitoring pools, it is important to check hot tubs, water fountains and other water features, Property & Casualty reported. Legionella is a bacterium naturally found in water, especially warm water. People are infected when they inhale steam or droplets of water that contains the bacteria. There are 45 species, and half of them cause infections in humans. At most risk are smokers and people with compromised immune systems.
There are two forms of Legionnaires disease, Property & Casualty reported. One is a severe form of pneumonia and can be fatal. The other is not as severe and similar to the flu.
A Legionella outbreak is relatively easy to prevent, as long as a club uses a sanitizer that is approved by the EPA and adequate concentration is maintained at all times, Property & Casualty reported. If an outbreak is suspected or confirmed, immediately close the pool/hot tub and decontaminate. If located inside, make sure that the air does not circulate through any other part of the facility.
To ensure members at their pools have pleasant experiences, club owners should have regular inspections; clearly posting and enforcing water safety rules is also key, Property & Casualty reported. As the insurance partners of clubs, National Underwriters can work with them on managing the risks and mitigating the effects of illness.