In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that looked like it would do for public swimming pools what the movie "Jaws" did for sandy Cape Cod beaches — and more.
CDC researchers and public health officials in Atlanta collected samples from 161 swimming pool filters throughout the city and found 58 percent of them contained E.coli, a bacteria found in human feces. Although it wasn't a dangerous strain that produces severe illness, the study did show that public swimming pools, in Atlanta, have a problem with human waste contamination.
The CDC also blames fecal contamination for the following illnesses:
• Commonly called crypto, cryptosporidium is a tiny parasite that lives in the intestines of humans and animals. An infected swimmer can release enough of the parasite to sicken everyone nearby who happens to swallow any water.
Symptoms of crypto include stomach pains, nausea, dehydration, fever, vomiting and weight loss, and usually last two weeks. Crypto has an outer shell that makes it resistant to chlorine. In 2009, 75 cases of crypto were reported in New Hampshire.
• Like crypto, giardia is a common recreational water illness. Giardia causes severe diarrhea, gas and stomach pain. Symptoms tend to last for two weeks. Infections occur when people suffering from diarrhea swim and contaminate water that is swallowed by other swimmers. In 2009, 135 cases of giardia were reported throughout New Hampshire.
• Severe and bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting are symptoms of toxic E.coli which is spread in the same way as crypto and giardia. Severe infections can lead to kidney failure.
There were 38 cases of toxic E.coli reported to the state's Division of Public Health Services. While most healthy adults will recover in about 10 days, children, seniors and people with compromised immune systems are at risk for serious complications.