My previously healthy patient developed a viral illness with fever and headache few days after swimming in a community pool. Can swimming pools be a source of viral infection?

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?

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  1. 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.
  2. Keswick BH, Gebra CP, Goyal SM. Occurrence of enteroviruses in community swimming pools. Am J Public Health 1981;71:1026030.
  3. CDC.Microbes in pool filter backwash as evidence of the need for improved swimmer hygiene—Metro-Atlanta, Georgia, 2012. MMWR 2013;62:385-88.
  4. Gerba CP. Assessment of enteric pathogen shedding by bathers during recreational activity and its impact on water quality. Quant Microbiol 2000; 2:55-68
  5. CDC. Model Aquatic Health Code. 8.0 Annexes: fecal/vomit/blood contamination response Annex (6.0 policies and management), 2008.
  6. 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.



My previously healthy patient developed a viral illness with fever and headache few days after swimming in a community pool. Can swimming pools be a source of viral infection?

Can my patient contract influenza more than once in a season?

It’s not common but reinfection with influenza can definitely occur, either due to the same viral strain, or due to a different one altogether.

One study reported influenza reinfection due to H1N1 in otherwise healthy patients within 12-20 days of the original infection after an apparent period of full recovery. 1 There was no evidence of resistance to oseltamivir among isolates and all patients recovered after the second infection.

Reinfection with the same viral strain within 2-3 weeks of the initial bout of influenza shouldn’t be too surprising since it takes 4-7 weeks for antibody response to the infection to peak. 2 Reexposure to the same circulating strain of influenza virus (the season can last 6 weeks or longer) can then result in reinfection when the body hasn’t had enough time to make significant amount of protective antibodies following the first infection.

Another explanation is that more than 1 strains of influenza virus often circulate during any given season.   This places patients at risk of infection due to strains of influenza virus that do not confer significant cross-immunity between each other,  resulting in getting “the flu twice in 1 season.” 3


  1. Perz CM, Ferres M, Labarca JA. Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 reinfection, Chile. Emerg Infect Dis 2010;16:156-57.
  2. Treanor JJ. Influenza viruses, including avian influenza and swine influenza. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and practice of infectious diseases. 7th ed. New York: Elsevier; 2010. p 2265-2293.
  3. Rettner R. Can you get the flu twice in 1 season? Scientific American, LiveScience, February 4, 2018. . Accessed February 5, 2018.


Can my patient contract influenza more than once in a season?

Should I order serum procalcitonin on my patient with suspected infection?

Two things to ask before you order procalcitonin (PCT): 1. Will it impact patient management?; and 2. If so, will the result be available in a timely manner ie, within hours not days?

Whatever the result, PCT should always be interpreted in the context of the patient’s illness and other objective data. Not surprisingly then, as a “screening” test, PCT may be more useful in patients with low pre-test likelihood of having bacterial infection, not dissimilar to the use of D-dimer in patients with low pre-test probability of pulmonary embolism1.  

Several potential clinical uses of this biomarker have emerged in recent years,  including:1,2

  • Helping decide when to initiate antibiotics in patients with upper acute respiratory tract infections and bronchitis. A normal or low PCT supports viral infection.
  • Helping decide when to discontinue antibiotics (ie, when PCT normalizes) in community-acquired or ventilator-associated pneumonia.
  • Helping monitor patient progress with an expected drop in PCT of about 50% per day (half-life ~ 24 hrs) with effective therapy.

Few caveats…

  • PCT may be unremarkable in about a third of patients with bacteremia (especially due to less virulent bacteria, including many gram-positives)3.  
  • PCT levels are lowered by high-flux membrane hemodialysis, so check a baseline level before, not after, hemodialysis4.
  • Lastly, despite its higher specificity for bacterial infections compared to other biomarkers such as C-reactive protein, PCT may be elevated in a variety of non-infectious conditions, including pancreatitis, burns, pulmonary edema or aspiration, mesenteric infarction (ischemic bowel), cardiogenic shock, and hypotension during surgery2.



  1. Schuetz P, Muller B, Chirst-Crain M, et al. Procalcitonin to initiate or discontinue antibiotics in acute respiratory tract infections (review). Evid-Based Child Health (A Cochrane Review Journal) 2013;8:4;1297-137.
  2. Gilbert GN. Use of plasma procalcitonin levels as an adjunct to clinical microbiology. J Clin Microbiol 2010;48:2325-29.
  3. Yan ST, Sun LC, Jia HB. Procalcitonin levels in bloodstream infections caused by different sources and species of bacteria. Am J Emerg Med 2017;35:779-83.
  4. Grace E, Turner RM. Use of procalcitonin in patients with various degrees of chronic kidney disease including renal replacement therapy. Clin Infect Dis 2014;59:1761-7.
Should I order serum procalcitonin on my patient with suspected infection?

Is there a seasonal variation in the incidence of cardiovascular (CV) events or venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Seasonal variation, primarily characterized by a winter peak, has been reported for acute CV events, such as acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and sudden death, aortic rupture or dissection, and ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, and VTE (1). A meta-analysis involving patients with VTE, primarily with a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, revealed a 20% absolute increase in the incidence of VTE during January (1).  

Potential physiological mechanisms for these observations include increased sympathetic activity, decreased loss of fluids and sodium, increase in LDL cholesterol, increase in serum fibrinogen levels and other coagulation markers and C-reactive protein, and lower vitamin D levels due to shorter daylight hours during winter months (1,2).  At least in the case of AMI in the U.S., the higher incidence in winter is not affected by climate (2).  

Respiratory virus infections as a cause of acute inflammation leading to  CV or VTE events is another intriguing explanation (3). Indeed, influenza vaccination has been associated with reduction in hospitalization for cardiac disease and stroke among the elderly (4) and, in patients with cardiovascular disease, a reduction in death due to combined cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks and strokes (5).

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  1. Dentali F, Ageno W, Rancan E, et al. Seasonal and monthly variability in the incidence of venous thromboembolism. A systematic review and a meta-analysis of the literature. Thromb Haemost 2011;106:439-447.
  2. Spencer FA, Goldberg RJ, Becker RC, et al. Seasonal distribution of acute myocardial infarction in the Second National Registry of Myocardial Infarction. J Am Coll Cardiol 1998;31:1226-33.h ttps://
  3. Woodhouse PR, Khaw KT, Plummer M, et al. Seasonal variations of plasma fibrinogen and factor VII activity in the elderly: winter infections and death from cardiovascular disease. Lancet 1994;343:435-39.
  4. Nichol KL, Nordin J, Mulloly J, et al. Influenza vaccination and reduction in hospitalization for cardiac disease and stroke among the elderly. N Engl J Med 2003; 348:1322-1332.
  5. Clar C, Oseni Z, Flowers N, et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005050.pub3h ttp://  





Is there a seasonal variation in the incidence of cardiovascular (CV) events or venous thromboembolism (VTE)?