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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013 May 17;62(19):385-8.

Microbes in pool filter backwash as evidence of the need for improved swimmer hygiene - metro-Atlanta, Georgia, 2012.


Filters physically remove contaminants, including microbes, from water in treated recreational water venues, such as pools. Because contaminants accumulate in filters, filter concentrates typically have a higher density of contamination than pool water. During the 2012 summer swimming season, filter concentrate samples were collected at metro-Atlanta public pools. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assays were conducted to detect microbial nucleic acid. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was detected in 95 (59%) of 161 samples; detection indicates contamination from the environment (e.g., dirt), swimmers, or fomites (e.g., kickboards). P. aeruginosa detection underscores the need for vigilant pool cleaning, scrubbing, and water quality maintenance (e.g., disinfectant level and pH) to ensure that concentrations do not reach levels that negatively impact swimmer health. Escherichia coli, a fecal indicator, was detected in 93 (58%) samples; detection signifies that swimmers introduced fecal material into pool water. Fecal material can be introduced when it washes off of swimmers' bodies or through a formed or diarrheal fecal incident in the water. The risk for pathogen transmission increases if swimmers introduce diarrheal feces. Although this study focused on microbial DNA in filters (not on illnesses), these findings indicate the need for swimmers to help prevent introduction of pathogens (e.g., taking a pre-swim shower and not swimming when ill with diarrhea), aquatics staff to maintain disinfectant level and pH according to public health standards to inactivate pathogens, and state and local environmental health specialists to enforce such standards.

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