Whether hiking in Wyoming’s beautiful mountains or swimming in a favorite pool or lake, making smart choices can help residents avoid catching or spreading illnesses associated with water, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
“When germs get into waters where we are tempted to take a drink or where we swim, they can steal our fun by causing diseases such as cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis and shigellosis,” said Katie Bryan, epidemiologist with WDH.
Disease symptoms can occur days to weeks after exposure and include diarrhea, stomach cramping, nausea and appetite loss.
“The pretty creek we cross during a hike may look clear and refreshing, but germs that can cause illness are common in water sources such as hot springs, lakes, rivers and streams,” Bryan said. “Really, it’s never a good idea to drink untreated water.”
Many germs that get into the water come from animal and human feces. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much contamination to cause a problem so it’s important to prevent germs from getting into pools and lakes as much as possible,” Bryan said.
“With pools, it’s important to know some germs are very tolerant to chlorine and might not be killed right away,” Bryan said. “For example, cryptosporidium, the top cause of pool-related outbreaks, can live in chlorinated water for more than 10 days.”
Simple steps to help protect ourselves and others include:
- Avoid swimming on days when you are experiencing diarrhea. Germs can spread into the water and make others sick.
- Don’t swallow swimming water and avoid getting water into your mouth.
- Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Parents of young children should remember to:
o Wash children before swimming (especially their rear ends).
o Check diapers every 30–60 minutes. Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not next to a pool or lake.
o Take children to the bathroom every 30–60 minutes. Waiting to hear “I have to go,” may mean it’s too late.
For more information about healthy swimming, visit www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming/.