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Pool Health Information

"Clear the Pool!" is not a frequent - or welcome -- announcement. But it can happen, and under the Fairfax County Health Department's new procedures, accidents now require longer pool closures, making healthy swimming habits increasingly important.

In accord with stricter guidelines recommended last year by the Centers for Disease Control, diarrhea accidents in Park Authority pools will require closure for at least 16 hours, to up the chlorine to 20 parts per million for 12.75 hours, backwash the filters and then reduce the chlorine level to normal.

The Centers for Disease Control has been gathering information from state health authorities on recreational water illness (RWI) outbreaks in the U.S. since 1978. These outbreaks are caused by germs such as crypto (short for cryptosporidium), giardia, E-coli and shigella. RWIs are spread by swallowing pool water that has been contaminated with fecal matter. The good news is that most germs causing RWIs are killed by chlorine. However, chlorine doesn't work instantly. It takes time to kill germs, and germs like cryto can live in the best maintained pools for days.

Prevention is the much preferred alternative to clean-up, so please follow the CDC's recommendations for healthy swimming habits:

  • Don't go swimming if you have had diarrhea in the last TWO weeks.
  • Encourage children to use the bathroom before entering the pool and take them on frequent bathroom breaks.
  • Children who are not toilet trained and incontinent adults MUST wear snug fitting swim suit diapers or snug fitting plastic pants beneath their bathing suits.
  • Shower before entering the pool.
  • Do not drink the pool water.

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