Officials believe that as many as 5 million Americans may have come into contact with public pools in recent weeks, including millions of young children.

WASHINGTON—Calling the finding an imminent threat to public health nationwide, horrified officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convened an emergency press conference Wednesday to announce they had discovered the existence of thousands of public pools throughout the country.

Visibly alarmed CDC personnel explained that they received a disturbing report last week of a municipal park in Astoria, NY that contained what they described as “an in-ground reservoir filled with approximately 40,000 gallons of tepid water mixed with human sweat, body hair, bacteria, and mucus.” The officials stated that further investigation revealed dozens of similar cases in the surrounding area, touching off fears of a widespread epidemic.

“We initially believed the pool in Astoria was an anomaly, but as we widened our search, we found this troubling phenomenon in nearly every population center we looked—the situation is far worse than anything we could have ever imagined,” said CDC director Thomas Frieden, who added that confirmed accounts of the large repositories of filth-suffused liquid have since been documented in all 50 states. “Our preliminary estimates indicate that millions of Americans may have already come into contact with these communal bathing sites. And perhaps most frighteningly, our models suggest that we may have discovered them too late to contain further spread.”

“We urge citizens to take common-sense precautions by avoiding these public pools, as well as any dripping wet or towel-clad individuals who may have recently been exposed to one,” he continued. “While it’s important that citizens not panic, we want to make it clear to the public just how disgusting these things are.”

Researchers confirmed that the pools, which they said are most easily identified by their grimy concrete surfaces and prominent ring of damp plastic chairs surrounding them, are typically found in local and state parks, but noted that some private clubs have also been known to harbor the lukewarm, blue-colored basins teeming with assorted detritus. Officials also warned that while the risk of exposure appears greatest in the warmer months, the prevalence of public pools inside schools and hotels means that Americans are in danger of contact throughout the year.

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Frieden reported that the CDC is currently formulating a plan to eradicate the pools by draining them as quickly as possible. In the interim, he cautioned that Americans—especially young children and those with weakened immune systems—should maintain a minimum distance of 150 feet from any public pool they may encounter, adding that even minimal exposure of five minutes or less was likely to pose serious risks, ranging from the possibility of encountering pockets of urine to the high likelihood of wading into clusters of dead bugs and other unidentified floating matter that clump together in pools’ corners.

Those who believe they may have come into contact with a public pool were advised by officials to immediately call a hotline listed on the CDC’s website.

“The reality is that anyone, anywhere, could end up in a public pool,” said Frieden, who noted that the organization was developing a special task force to address the related scourges of communal hot tubs and water parks it had also recently uncovered. “The last thing we want is for Americans to take this situation lightly. These pools are nasty, smelly and almost certainly contain trace amounts of fecal matter.”

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“Frankly, it’s hard to believe something as awful as this could still exist in the 21st century, ” he added.