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Swimming Pool Bacteria … What Causes It?

Many people believe swimming pool maintenance is all about keeping the water clean and clear looking, but that’s only a small part of it. It’s primarily to keep the swimmers safe and healthy. The water may look clear and clean but could be harboring dangerous microorganisms (or microbes).

Many different microbes can hide in swimming pool water that hasn’t been cleaned properly. These also can get into pool components, such as heating, indoor pool ventilation, and air conditioning systems, and be transferred to other wet surface areas near the pool, such as restrooms, showers, pool houses, or transfer from the pool to a spa or hot tub.

Fecal Microbes

Feces in pool water from children and adults alike are dangerous to swimmers. Whether diarrhea, contained by a swimsuit or residue remaining from going to the restroom, some microbe-carrying secretions or residue will get into the water. Feces in the swimming pool also can come from animals, especially wildlife and birds.

These microbes carry a high risk of causing illness in swimmers, like these Viruses

  • Adenoviruses can cause the common cold, pink eye, bronchitis, or pneumonia, and intestinal tract infection in children.
  • Hepatitis A infects liver cells and causes inflammation.
  • Noroviruses cause inflammation in the stomach and/or intestines, causing stomach pain, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Enteroviruses may cause only a mild illness, or a more serious inflammation of the linings of the brain, or temporary or permanent paralysis.Bacteria
  • Shigella is an infectious disease with diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.
  • E. coli 0157 is a strain that produces a powerful toxin, causing a severe illness.
  • Protozoa – Giardia or Cryptosporidium are diseases from a parasite living in the intestines.

Non-Fecal Microbes

Humans and pets:

  • Body secretions – saliva, urine, sweat, vomit, skin tissue, nose and throat secretions.
  • Hair or fur.
  • Transferring water pollutants by swimming in the ocean and then jumping into a swimming pool.

Humans only:

  • Sunscreens and oils.
  • Secretion contaminants from sick people who swim anyway.
  • Cosmetics and hair products.
  • Swimwear and other clothing worn into the pool.
  • Other sources – microbes in dirt and debris from lawns, plants, trees and toys.

Non-fecal microbes cause even more health hazards than from feces:


  • Molluscipoxvirus is a common skin infection.
  • Papillomavirus causes genital warts and cancer.
  • Adenoviruses is the same as the fecal virus.Bacteria
  • Legionnaires’ disease is a severe pneumonia, often fatal.
  • Pseudomonas cause only minor problems like swimmer’s ear and hot tub rash for healthy individuals; but if the immune system is compromised, they cause very serious – even fatal – infections.
  • Mycobacterium causes serious diseases, such as tuberculosis and leprosy.
  • Staphylococcus aureus is a staph infection, causing anywhere from minor skin infections to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis.
  • Leptospira causes anywhere from minor headaches, muscle pains, and fevers to severe bleeding from the lungs, meningitis, kidney failure, or bleeding into the lungs.Protozoa
  • Naegleria fowleri is an ameba that travels up the nose to the brain, destroying brain tissue and often fatal.
  • Acanthamoeba is a serious infection of the eye, resulting in permanent visual impairment or blindness.
  • Plasmodium causes malaria.Fungi
  • Trichophyton causes infections of the nail, beard, skin and scalp, such as athlete’s foot, ringworm and jock itch.
  • Epidermophyton floccosum causes skin and nail infections.

Proper and frequent pool maintenance is the solution to bacteria of any type. If you do your own, it’s a must to know what you’re doing, to do it often, and not to skimp when you’re not in the mood. Otherwise, a pool cleaning service is your best alternative.

And it’s essential to call in a professional if you ever find a dead animal and/or what may be wildlife feces in your pool, which can be highly dangerous to humans, especially if from a raccoon. A pool cleaning service will safely remove the animal and thoroughly clean the pool of all dangerous bacteria.

Swimmer health and safety is your utmost priority. So, proper and frequent pool maintenance is essential.

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Written by Jason Rothman

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