The week before Memorial Day, May 22–28, 2017, marks the thirteenth annual Healthy and Safe Swimming Week (HSSW). This is a great time to engage and collaborate with aquatic facility operators, beach managers, the media, residential pool or hot tub/spa owners, and the public to maximize the health benefits of water-based physical activity while minimizing the risk of recreational water–associated illness and injury in your community.
The theme of this year’s HSSW is “Diarrhea and Swimming Don’t Mix.” Diarrheal incidents (e.g., Cryptosporidium contamination events) in recreational water can lead to outbreaks. Public health and the aquatic sector should collaborate to educate bathers and encourage them to stay out of recreational water if they have diarrhea to help keep their families and friends healthy.
Healthy and Safe Swimming Week: Response Tools for Public Health Professionals
We also encourage you to educate bathers about risks related to swimming in untreated venues such as lakes, where exposure to Naegleria fowleri, “the brain-eating ameba,” and harmful algal blooms (HABs) can occur. In consultation with state and federal partners, CDC developed the One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System (OHHABS), which provides local, state, and territorial public health partners a mechanism to voluntarily report human and animal cases of harmful algal bloom–associated illness. CDC launched OHHABS in June 2016. To learn more about OHHABS, visit www.cdc.gov/habs/ohhabs.html.
To encourage and support your HSSW efforts, we have provided this health promotion toolkit, which includes community outreach suggestions; a web-based resource list; and a sample press release, op-ed piece, and proclamation. We hope you will find these resources useful as you engage your community during HSSW. For additional information about HSSW, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/observances/hss-week/.
Finally, the second biennial conference of the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) will be held October 17–18, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. The conference will provide a forum to discuss proposed changes to CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code (national guidance to minimize the risk for illness and injury at public aquatic facilities) that CMAHC members will vote on. Voting results will be sent to CDC for consideration in developing the 2018 MAHC (3rd Edition). If you are not yet a CMAHC member, become a member today (www.cmahc.org/become-a-member.php) and help ensure that public health’s voice is heard!
Why Is This Important?
A Few Simple and Effective Prevention Steps We Can All Take
Illnesses caused by the germs in the places we swim:
In 2011–2012 (the last years for which national data are available), 90 outbreaks were linked to swimming; almost half of these outbreaks were caused by Cryptosporidium (or “Crypto” for short). Chlorine can kill most germs within minutes at concentrations recommended by CDC and typically required by state and local health departments. But Crypto can survive more than one week at these chlorine concentrations. Diarrheal incidents in the water we share and swim in can easily spread germs and potentially cause outbreaks. Because chlorine and other disinfectants don’t kill germs instantly, it’s important to keep these germs, particularly Crypto, out of the water in the first place and not drink the water we share and swim in, this summer and year round.
For more info, visit
Every swimmer should:
- Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
- Shower before you get in the water.
- Don’t pee or poop in the water.
- Don’t swallow the water.
Every hour—everyone out!
- Take kids on bathroom breaks.
- Check diapers and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area—not poolside—to keep germs away from the pool.
FREE printed English and Spanish Healthy Swimming brochures are available at
Every day, two children less than 14 years old die from drowning. Drowning is a leading cause of injury death for children ages 1–4 years.
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Keep swimmers safe in the water.
- Make sure everyone knows how to swim.
- Use life jackets appropriately.
- Provide continuous, attentive supervision close to swimmers.
- Know CPR.
Prevent access to water when pool is not in use.
- Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight bearing pool covers.
- Use locks/alarms for windows and doors.
Injuries caused by mishandling pool chemicals (for pool operators and residential pool owners):
Pool chemicals are added to maintain water quality (for example, kill germs). Each year, however, mishandling of pool chemicals by operators of public pools and residential/backyard pool or hot tub/spa owners leads to 3,000–5,000 visits to emergency departments across the United States.
For more info, visit www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/aquatics-professionals/preventing-pool-chemical-events.html
Pool operators and residential pool owners should:
- Read and follow directions on product labels.
- Wear appropriate safety equipment (for example, goggles), as directed on product labels, when handling pool chemicals.
- Secure pool chemicals to protect people, particularly young children, and animals.
- Add pool chemicals poolside ONLY when directed by product label and when no one is in the water.
Prevent violent, potentially explosive, reactions.
- NEVER mix different pool chemicals with each other, particularly chlorine products and acid.
- Pre-dissolve pool chemicals ONLY when directed by product label.
- Add pool chemical to water, NEVER water to pool chemical.
FREE printed and laminated poster on safe storage and poster
on safe handling available at www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/materials/posters.html
Harmful Algal Blooms:
Algae can grow in warm, nutrient-rich fresh and marine waters. When there is an abundant growth of algae that harms people or animals, it is referred to as a harmful algal bloom (HAB). HABs in fresh and marine waters can produce toxins that cause a variety of illnesses including skin irritation, coughing, sneezing, diarrhea, stomach pain, numbness, and dizziness. Symptoms can vary depending on the type of HAB toxin and the type of exposure, such as skin contact, ingestion by eating food or drinking water contaminated with HAB toxins, or breathing in tiny droplets or mist contaminated with HAB toxins.
For more info, visit www.cdc.gov/habs/index.html
Avoid water that contains harmful algal blooms—when in doubt, stay out!
- Look for waterbody or beach advisories announced by local public health authorities or beach managers. If the beach is closed, stay out.
- Don’t swim, water ski, or boat in areas where the water is discolored or where you see foam, scum, or mats of algae on the water’s surface.
- Avoid entering or swimming in bodies of water that contain or are near dead fish or other dead animals.
- Keep children or pets from playing in or drinking scummy water.
- If you do swim in water that might contain a harmful algal bloom, get out and rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible.
- If pets, especially dogs, swim in scummy water, rinse them off immediately. Do not let them lick the algae off of their fur.
Naegleria fowleri “The Brain-eating Ameba”:
Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic ameba (a single-celled living organism) that is commonly found in warm fresh water like lakes, rivers, and hot springs around the world. If water containing the ameba goes up the nose forcefully, the ameba can invade and cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
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Naegleria fowleri infection is rare. The only certain way to
prevent an infection due to swimming is not to participate in fresh water-related activities. However, you can take steps to reduce your chance of getting an infection by limiting the amount of fresh water going up your nose. To limit the amount of fresh water going up your nose:
- Hold your nose or use nose clips when taking part in fresh water-related activities.
- Avoid putting your head underwater in hot springs and other warm fresh water bodies.
- Avoid water-related activities in all warm freshwater bodies during periods of high water temperature.
- Avoid digging in or stirring up mud and scum while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm fresh water areas.
Healthy swimming is not just about the steps the pool operators, beach managers, and health departments take. We all need to do our part to help keep ourselves, our families, and friends healthy this summer and year round, to maximize the fun and health benefits of swimming.