Maine CDC Press Release

May 25, 2010

MeCDC Supports Efforts To Prevent Illness in Recreational Waters

Stephen Sears, MD, MPH
(207) 287-5183

AUGUSTA - Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is proud to support National Recreational Water Illness (RWI) Prevention Week, May 24-30, to promote awareness of RWIs among Maine residents.

RWIs are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, interactive fountains, water play areas, lakes, rivers, or oceans.

Seventy-eight recreational water associated outbreaks affecting 4,412 persons nationwide were reported to federal CDC from 2005-2006.

“Although few outbreaks have been reported recently in Maine, it is important to prevent outbreaks from occurring,” said Dr. Stephen Sears, State Epidemiologist. “Cases of diseases transmitted by exposure to contaminated water have been increasing in the past few years.” For example, Sears said, Cryptosporidiosis has risen from 30 cases in 2005 to 67 in 2009. It is caused by a parasite and symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever and dehydration

The best way to prevent RWIs is to keep germs out of recreational water in the first place. The Maine CDC recommends following these six steps for a safe and healthy swimming experience:

  1. Do not swim when you have diarrhea
  2. Do not swallow the water
  3. Practice good hygiene by showering with soap before swimming and washing hands after using the toilet or changing diapers
  4. Take kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often
  5. Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area
  6. Wash your children thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before they go swimming

“By following these steps, Maine residents and visitors can enjoy clean and healthy pools and beaches” says Dr. Sears.

The most common RWI is stomach upset, followed by diarrhea. Residents experiencing diarrhea or other symptoms, especially after swimming in any recreational water source are encouraged to contact their health care provider.

Children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer from severe illness if infected.

For swimming pools, having the right disinfectant and pH levels is essential to stopping the spread of germs that cause RWIs

This year’s promotion efforts include an educational campaign through direct mailings to pool facilities, pool supply stores, campgrounds and summer camps. A new Maine CDC website is available for more information on RWIs, .

For more information about healthy swimming, visit