There’s been a lot of talk about water borne illnesses lately. Several national news stories have highlighted the health hazards of swimming in natural waterways and you may be wondering just how this relates to our own recent beach closures. Well, here’s what you need to know:
- Water is alive with organisms! All waters whether it’s a lake, river, ocean or even swimming pool contains various microscopic organisms including bacteria. These organisms are generally harmless but some may cause illness.
- Between May and September the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) monitors bacteria levels at beaches in an effort to protect citizens from high levels of harmful bacteria. When bacteria levels are high, VDH will issue a beach closure.
- Beach closures are most likely after a rain event. Avoid swimming near drains, fishing piers and for several days after heavy rain.
- Do not ignore a beach closure! Closures will be indicated through signs along the waterway advising people not to come into contact with the water.
- Swimming during a beach closure can cause stomach flu, pink eye, impetigo, dysentery, hepatitis and other serious bacterial infections.
- At all times, reduce your risk of illness from swimming by showering before/after contact with water and keeping water out of your nose, mouth, eyes and open wounds.
- You can help reduce bacteria pollution in your local waterways by scooping the poop, not feeding geese and ducks, and preventing sewer overflows by keeping wipes, food and grease out of your toilet and drains.
To stay up to date on the latest beach conditions, follow VDH’s Beach Monitoring Program on Twitter (@VDHBeach) to receive notifications of the status of current swimming advisories.