Illness caused by bacteria in Swimming Pools
When you go to a swimming pool whether it’s on holiday or just your local pool, you want to have an enjoyable time with your family in a safe environment. While supervising your children and making sure they are safe may be at the front of your mind few people think that they are at risk of catching a waterborne illness in the swimming pool.
Swimming pool water is often heated and this means it is just the right temperature to provide certain bacteria with the perfect habitat. Viruses and other pathogens can also be present. The symptoms caused by the various micro organisms are similar to one another and are therefore referred to in general terms as ‘recreational waterborne illnesses’ or RWIs. RWIs can be spread by swallowing, breathing or having contact with, germs in the water.
Even if a pool looks clean if it is not properly managed it can provide harmful bacteria with an ideal environment in which to flourish.
There are four main illnesses from treated water
(such as swimming pools and spas):
Acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) – This can be caused by bacteria; E.coli, or Shigella, viruses; Norovirus or Echovirus or parasites; Cryptosporidium or Giardia.
Dermal infections (such as rashes) and ear ache – Most bacterial rashes are caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Adverse reactions to chemical exposure
The majority of recreational waterborne illnesses can be linked to a lack of proper disinfectant, inadequate filtration and, or a lack of proper pool maintenance and cleaning practices.
Although it is commonly accepted that swimming pools can cause certain illnesses it can be difficult to directly link an outbreak with pool water as the evidence is largely circumstantial. Because some illnesses can take between 2-14 days before symptoms present themselves they are not readily associated with the swimming pool. It is also quite difficult to isolate microbes in the water to identify them.
Lack of disinfectant
Lack of proper maintenance and cleaning
Although you cannot eliminate every micro organism there are a number of ways you can reduce the risk of catching a RWI. Firstly pool owners have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their customers. This would include using adequate and effective disinfectant as well as having a proper, working filtration system. The pool should also ensure that staff are properly trained in maintaining the pool’s condition and are able to regularly test for high levels of harmful micro organisms.
Chlorine is the most widely used disinfectant as it can inactivate or control most pathogens and therefore using adequate disinfectant is one of the most important factors for preventing an outbreak. Proper filtration and chemically balanced water are also important factors. Disinfectants work by oxidising organic matter and inactivating pathogens. Filtration removes both organic and inorganic matter thereby eliminating materials in which pathogens can shelter from disinfectants. The pH of a pool must be maintained between 7.2 and 7.8 to allow the chlorine to work effectively.
High water temperatures, turbulent water and many swimmers causes rapid disinfectant depletion therefore they increase the risk of catching RWI s.
Swimmers can also help prevent the spread of these micro organisms by showering before entering the pool to help wash away any micro organisms. For your own health you should also shower after using the pool to help remove any pathogens you may have picked up from the pool. Children who are not toilet trained should either not use the pool or wear special, pool-safe nappies. If you have been ill, particularly if you suffered from diarrhoea, you should not use a pool for at least a week after symptoms have cleared up.
Symptoms vary depending on what you have been infected by but symptoms of RWIs often include:
Malaise which is a general feeling of being unwell
Making a Claim
If regulations governing the hygiene and maintenance of swimming pools are not followed and, as a result, users become ill it may be possible for the victims to make a claim for compensation against those responsible.
The first step to making a successful claim for compensation is to contact Macks Solicitors for advice. Our skilled solicitors will be able to tell you if you have a claim and the likelihood of its success following a free, informal consultation.
If you then decide that you wish to pursue a personal injury claim and would like this firm to act for you, your solicitor will set things in motion straight away.
Common pathogens responsible for Swimming Pool Illness :
Pseudomonas aeruginosa – This is a hardy thermophilic bacterium, which means that it can survive, and prefers, high temperatures. It has a slimy coating so it is more resistant to disinfectants. They are often responsible for folliculitis ** (could link some of these to already existing articles: “Folliculitis” and “Eczema and contact dermatitis” etc) ** and skin dermatitis. It also causes pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
Staphylococci – This comes from people’s skin and oral and nasal tracts. It can cause conjunctivitis, respiratory infection and urinary tract infections.
Legionella – This bacterium causes Legionnaires disease which is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. They are thermophilic and are able to survive temperatures of up to 500?C.
Shigella – This causes an acute bacterial infection affecting the large intestine. E.coli. Most strains are harmless but some can cause urinary tract infections and gastroenteritis.
Adenovirus – This causes respiratory tract infections such as conjunctivitis and tonsillitis as well as ear infections and occasionally gastroenteritis’s.
Enterovirus – This causes respiratory infections, such as conjunctivitis, as well as aseptic meningitis.
Hepatitis A virus – This causes hepatitis A which is an inflammation of the liver, however unlike hepatitis B and C it is not on-going and in most people it completely heals without any long term damage.
Giardia – This is a highly contagious micro organism and causes giardiasis which affects the small intestine. It is spread by ingestion of cysts from the faeces of infected people.
Cryptosporidium – This is also highly contagious and extremely resistant to most disinfectants; it requires high levels of chlorine for long periods of time to get rid of this micro organism. It causes cryptosporidiosis which can be life threatening to people who have compromised immune systems.