This summer has been one of the hottest on record. If you’re like any normal, sane person, you probably sought refuge in the cool and refreshing waters of your local public pool. Unfortunately, a relaxing experience might not have been your only take away from the excursion.
Two cases of Legionnaire’s disease have been reported in Laughlin, Nevada, and have been linked to the water in the nearby Harrah’s. The legionella bacteria spreads through aerosol and water droplets (sometimes even in air conditioning units) that are then inhaled. Due to the severity of the pneumonia-like illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak when two or more cases appear in a 12 month period.
Symptoms include headaches and very high fevers (104 or higher) in the first day or so, which then escalate into shortness of breath, coughing, gastrointestinal distress (such as vomiting and diarrhea), and mental confusion. Imagine how upsetting it must have been to set out on a fun vacation on the outskirts of Vegas only to end up in the hospital with this debilitating illness.
And that’s not the only one going around, either. Cryptosporidium, a nasty intestinal bacteria that is responsible for nonstop diarrhea and vomiting, affects approximately 748,000 people each year and is the leading cause of waterborne illnesses. The protozoa travels most noticeably through recreational waters — a.k.a. public pools. If you accidentally ingest some infected pool water or are swimming in a pool that hasn’t been treated with chlorine, you might be spending the next few days in the bathroom.
Tragically, it isn’t only pools. Any water that hasn’t been properly filtered and treated is susceptible to both forms of bacteria. With the average American drinking 38% more water than 15 years ago, this means that one contaminated source could affect a large number of people — you may want to invest in a water filter just to be on the safe side.
And that public hot tub you love so much? It’s also at risk for contamination; the whirlpool jets make a cozy spot for bacteria to flourish. There are more than 7.3 million hot tubs in the U.S., so before you go to soothe your muscles with some high pressure jets and high temperature water, make sure it’s been treated. Or, better yet, invest in one of your own so you know exactly who’s been in it!