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Health department says poor hygiene a party pooper when it comes to pools

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week raises serious questions about the safety of swimming pools across the country.

As the weather in Utah warms up, many families are looking for ways to cool off—like hitting the neighborhood pool.

But before you jump in the water, there's something local health experts want you to do.

“Make sure that they take a full cleansing shower before they get into the pool, even after taking potty breaks,” said Rick Ledbetter, a program supervisor with the Salt Lake County Health Department.

Ledbetter is the swimming pool program supervisor for the Salt Lake County Health Department.

“Often times the germs get in the pool water from fecal contamination, or poop,” he said.

He says even though it's an uncomfortable conversation, it's one everyone needs to have.

“So last thing we need is for somebody who is sick and contagious with diarrhea getting into that pool, because if there’s any germs in their body, it’s going to wash up into that pool water,” Ledbetter said. “Even though there's chlorine in there, it does not instantaneously get rid of the germs."

Parents also need to pay extra attention to younger swimmers.

“If you’re a parent for little kids, one of the things that you can do is make sure that you’re taking them on frequent potty breaks,” Ledbetter said. “Check their diaper on a regular basis—about every half hour, that would be great—and don’t change their diapers poolside."

Ledbetter says it's a lesson Salt Lake County learned firsthand during the summer of 2007.

“We had one of the largest outbreaks for cryptosporidium in the nation, but, since then, we’ve put measures in place and we have not had a problem with cryptosporidium since 2007,” he said.

Now the county works closely with pool operators to make sure they all get regular inspections.

“We have our water samplers that actually go out each and every month that the pool is open and operating,” Ledbetter said.