If you’re heading out to swim in a natural source of water in the US this summer, then be warned: You really shouldn’t drink the water.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Take the word of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who, in their most recent lovingly named Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, titled Outbreaks Associated with Untreated Recreational Water, found the majority of disease outbreaks could be traced back to lakes, rivers, and the ocean.
They found that between 2000 and 2014 there were 140 water-associated outbreaks reported to the CDC. These led to 4,958 cases of disease, and two deaths, from nasties such as norovirus, E. coli, and Shigella. The two deaths were the result of Naegleria fowleri.
Out of the 140 outbreaks, parks and beaches were the most likely starting points, at 36 and 32 percent respectively. And the vast majority occurred from June to August, a huge 81 percent, with July being the worst month.
The best ways to avoid potential infection include not swimming in discolored water, or water that’s “smelly, foamy, or scummy” – as if you needed telling. And they note that “limiting water entering the nose when swimming in warm freshwater” is also very important, as is avoiding swimming for two weeks if you have diarrhea.
To specifically avoid diarrhea-causing germs, they note you shouldn’t swallow recreational water. And just in general, it might be a good idea to “use nose clips, hold your nose shut, or keep head above water when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater,” they said.
When the water is particularly warm, it might be a good idea to avoid going in freshwater at all, especially to prevent a Naegleria fowleri infection. It probably goes without saying but if you can also see dead fish or other animals in the water, then don’t go in.
And it’s not just natural watering holes. Another CDC report in May from the same time period found that 493 disease outbreaks, causing 27,000 illnesses and eight deaths, could be traced back to hotel pools and hot tubs (32 percent) and other swimming pools.
Again, they recommend not swallowing pool water, and not swimming if you’ve got diarrhea or had it recently. Basically, be a bit careful when it comes to swimming in communal areas, and be on the lookout for signs the water might not be too healthy.
(H/T: The Verge)