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Summer Is Peak Time for Illness From Feces in Swimming Areas

Summer Is Peak Time for Illness From Feces in Swimming Areas

Whether it’s the beach you visit on vacation or the lake at your local park, summer is prime time for swimming enjoyment. A recent report from U.S. health officials warn while swimming may be a fun way to pass the long days, relaxing in water contaminated with germs like E. coli or cryptosporidium can be devastating to your health. Primary care doctors say fecal matter is the main contributor to these contaminated waters.

What Contaminates Ocean Water?

The study concluded that a total of 140 untreated recreational water–associated outbreaks were reported to CDC during 2000–2014. Nearly 5,000 people became sick because of the outbreaks associated with the germs and two people died over the 14 year span. The study looked at 140 bodies of water to include oceans, lakes, and ponds – none of which were treated to prevent or kills germs.

The outbreaks were predominantly caused by “enteric pathogens,” according to the study. “Norovirus, E. coli, Shigella, Cryptosporidium, and other enteric pathogens can be transmitted via untreated recreational water when fecally contaminated water is ingested.”

Swimmers are one source of the fecal contamination, which can occur if kids or adults have a fecal incident in the water or fecal material washes off their bodies.

Other ways recreational water can become contaminated:

  • Wild and marine life fecal matter
  • Toxins emitted by harmful algae blooms
  • Stormwater runoff

Regardless the source of the bacteria, the effects of ingesting water that’s contaminated can make swimmers sick with diarrhea, vomiting, severe headaches, or abdominal pain. If you begin to feel any of these symptoms while swimming in an untreated swimming area, visit your primary care physician immediately.

Where Is Swimming Water Most Contaminated?

According to the CDC’s study, about one-third of the cases occurred in public parks and another third at public beaches. July was noted as the peak month for untreated recreational water–associated outbreaks, with 58 percent of cases beginning in that month.

Physicians warn that if you develop a fever or have other notable symptoms after swimming in a lake or untreated water, get to a primary care doctor’s office near you.

In the June report, 87 percent of illnesses were traced to bugs such as E. coli, cryptosporidium, norovirus and Shigella – all of which can be present in feces.

Prevent Illness While Swimming In Untreated Water

To protect yourself and your family from having to visit a primary care doctor due to severe illness caused by bacteria in untreated water, follow these simple steps:

  • Wear a nose clip or simply
  • Keep your head above water
  • Avoid swallowing water

Be mindful of water with a foul smell or algae-looking waste sitting on top of the water

The only way to completely prevent these types of illnesses is to avoid swimming in untreated recreational water. Swimmers should be aware of potential health risks so they can enjoy the summer months while protecting themselves.


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