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Health officials remind Minnesotans to "swim healthy" this summer Germs on and in swimmers' bodies can make people sick; preventive measures can help people avoid illness

Thu, Jul 1st, 2010
Posted in Health & Wellness

Awareness of disease risks and healthy swimming practices can play an important role in stopping the spread of illnesses when you go to the pool or the beach this summer, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

"Germs on and in swimmers' bodies can end up in the water and can make other people sick," said Dr. Kirk Smith, epidemiology supervisor for MDH. "Even healthy swimmers can get sick from recreational water illnesses, but the young, elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk."

The best way to prevent recreational water illnesses is to keep germs out of the water in the first place. Follow these steps for a safe and healthy swimming experience:

Don't swim when you have diarrhea.

Don't swallow pool or lake water.

Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming.

Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing diapers.

Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.

Change diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside or beachside.

From 2000 to 2009, 22 disease outbreaks at swimming pools and 13 outbreaks at beaches were reported in Minnesota. These outbreaks resulted in over 900 illnesses. The most common symptom of recreational water illness is diarrhea, which is frequently severe enough to result in hospitalization. Symptoms may not begin until a week or more after swimming.

Cryptosporidium, one of the most common waterborne disease agents, is a chlorine-resistant parasite that can survive and be transmitted even in a properly maintained pool.

For more information about Healthy Swimming, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Swimming Web page at

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