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article imageUS beaches harbor dangerous diseases

By Chris V. Thangham     Oct 14, 2007 in Health
Public health experts from John Hopkins University are warning that beaches contain a host of pathogens that have come from human feces dumped into the sea via sewage. They found pathogens in 30 per cent to 60 per cent of beach water samples tested.
We are faced with dangers from a number of sources: Pollution, food and water contamination. Beaches are one of the few places we worry about health dangers.
But we should worry about beaches now according to Thaddeus Graczyk from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Graczyk, a public health expert, along with his colleagues sampled water from Maryland’s beaches on Wednesdays and Sundays for 11 consecutive weeks during the summer of 2006.
The results they found were quite shocking: They tested for Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia, protozoans in human feces, which can cause severe (and in some cases fatal) gastrointestinal problems. These pathogens were found in 30 per cent of samples they tested. On weekends, it was as high as 60 per cent correlating with the number of bathers in the water on Sundays. The full study is available for paid subscribers from the link here.
The beaches are sometimes closed based on health hazard. Current health inspectors test the waters only during the week. If they don’t find high percentages of pathogens during normal testing, they usually don’t issue any warnings. Graczyk said this is flawed because on the weekend, there are more bathers than during the week and if inspectors do test the waters, the beaches will be closed.
Graczyk thinks bathers stir up the sediment that contains the microbes and may come to the surface in direct contact with other bathers. He and his colleagues think microbes from feces enter the beaches via the sewage or from surface run-off after heavy rains.
The article linked above doesn’t say how to protect ourselves from harmful microbes. The only recommendation, it seems, is to abstain from swimming in waters on beaches.
In my opinion, If microbes are a common occurrence in the sea, it will be difficult to control them when most of the sewage is dumped directly into the waters.
I go to beaches often in the summer and I never felt sick before. Do you ever have any problems at the beach?
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