Yes! Swimming pools have been implicated in the transmission of a variety of pathogens, including enteric viruses (eg, echovirus, coxackie virus, hepatitis A virus, norovirus) which account for nearly one-half of all swimming pool-related outbreaks. Adenoviruses also account for a significant number of swimming pool outbreaks.1,2
The most commonly reported symptoms in swimming pool outbreaks have been gastroenteritis, respiratory symptoms and conjunctivitis. However, aseptic meningitis and hepatitis may also occur. 1
Because viruses cannot replicate in the environment outside of host tissues, their presence in swimming pool is the result of direct contamination by those in the water who may shed viruses through unintentional fecal release or through body fluids, such as saliva, mucus, or vomitus. The finding of E. coli in 58% of pool water samples in 1 CDC study suggests the presence of stool as a primary source of infection.3
On average, each person has 0.14 grams (range 0.1 gram to 10 grams) of fecal material on their perianal surface that could rinse into the water if pre-swim shower with soap is omitted.4-5 Coupled with the potential for inadequate disinfection or chlorination of pool water, it is not surprising that swimming pools may serve as a source of infection.
CDC recommends keeping feces and urine out of the water, checking the chlorine level and pH before getting into the water and not swallowing the water you swim in.3
Bonus pearl: Did you know that pool water has also been associated with Cryptosporidium and Giardia and waterslides with E.coli-0157 outbreaks?
If you liked this post, sign up under MENU and catch future pearls right into your inbox!
- Bonadonna L, La Rosa G. A review and update on waterborne viral diseases associated with swimming pools. Int j Environ Res Public Health 2019;16, 166. Doi:10.3390/ijerph16020166. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6352248/
- Keswick BH, Gebra CP, Goyal SM. Occurrence of enteroviruses in community swimming pools. Am J Public Health 1981;71:1026030. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6267950
- CDC.Microbes in pool filter backwash as evidence of the need for improved swimmer hygiene—Metro-Atlanta, Georgia, 2012. MMWR 2013;62:385-88. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6219a3.htm
- Gerba CP. Assessment of enteric pathogen shedding by bathers during recreational activity and its impact on water quality. Quant Microbiol 2000; 2:55-68 https://arizona.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/assessment-of-enteric-pathogen-shedding-by-bathers-during-recreat
- CDC. Model Aquatic Health Code. 8.0 Annexes: fecal/vomit/blood contamination response Annex (6.0 policies and management), 2008. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/pdf/swimming/pools/mahc/structure-content/mahc-fecal-vomit-blood-contamination-response-annex.pdf
- CDC. Surveillance of waterborne disease outbreaks and other health events associated with recreational water—United States, 2007-2008 and surveillance of waterborne disease outbreaks associated with drinking water—United States, 2007-2008. MMWR 2011;60. 1-76. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21937976