Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Testing the Waters 2014 A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches: Health Concerns: •Viral infection (such as infectious hepatitis, gastroenteritis, and intestinal diseases caused by enteroviruses

.3 Health Concerns
The main route of exposure to disease-causing organisms in recreation waters is contact with polluted water while swimming, including accidental ingestion of contaminated water. In waters that contain fecal contamination, potentially all the waterborne diseases spread by the fecal-oral route could be contracted by bathers. These illnesses include diseases resulting from the following:
  • Bacterial infection (such as cholera, salmonellosis, shigellosis, and gastroenteritis).
  • Viral infection (such as infectious hepatitis, gastroenteritis, and intestinal diseases caused by enteroviruses).
  • Protozoan infections (such as amoebic dysentery and giardiasis).
Swimming in contaminated water most frequently causes gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is the inflamation of the gastrointestinal tract, usually caused by a microorganism. Symptoms include chills, nausea, diarrhea, and fever.

Although bathing in contaminated water most often results in contracting diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract, diseases affecting the eye, ear, skin, and upper respiratory tract can be contracted as well. Infection often results when pathogenic microorganisms come into contact with small breaks and tears in the skin or ruptures in delicate membranes in the ear or nose resulting from the trauma associated with diving into the water. Table 1-1 provides a list of diseases that can result from contact with water contaminated with anthropogenically introduced or naturally occurring bacterial, viral, and protozoan pathogens.

A good trip to the beach promises sun, surf, and relaxation. Visitors should expect to leave sandy and smiling—but not feeling ill. Unfortunately, the water at your local beach might be contaminated by human or animal waste, putting your health at risk: bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens in that waste can make exposed swimmers sick.

What causes this contamination? Across the country, the largest known contributor to beach closings or health advisory days has historically been stormwater pollution. Untreated sewage spills and overflows are also frequently to blame.

This report presents information on water quality at more than 3,000 U.S. beaches along the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. Explore the interactive map below to learn about beaches in your community. You can also click here to learn about superstar beaches—popular beaches that routinely have had low bacterial levels

Protecting swimmers from bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants in beach water requires leadership. Summer 2014 is filled with opportunities to improve water quality throughout the United States and to better protect people's health in the process. Everyone can now support a long-awaited rule to enhance protections for small streams and wetlands, which benefit beach water quality in two important ways, filtering out harmful contaminants and minimizing polluted runoff. Additionally, state and federal officials can start using the ample legal tools they have today to rein in stormwater pollution at the city and regional scale.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for ensuring that our recreational beach water is safe. Unfortunately, when the EPA adopted standards for allowable bacteria levels in late 2012, it missed a critical opportunity to protect the public from swimming in polluted water. However, the EPA also recently proposed guidance for grants given to states for water quality testing under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act to use a new and important tool—the health-protective Beach Action Value (BAV)—to make swimming advisory decisions that more fully protect public health. The BAV is a more protective threshold than the national allowable bacteria levels used in previous years to trigger beach advisories. EPA considers the BAV to be a "conservative, precautionary tool for making beach notification decisions." As such, local beach managers and state officials responsible for beach policies should rely on it to adequately safeguard public health.

Sources of Beach Water Pollution

Most beach closings and advisories are issued because beach water monitoring has detected the presence of pathogens—microscopic organisms from human and animal wastes that pose a threat to human health. Key contributors of these contaminants include stormwater runoff, untreated or partially treated discharges from sewage treatment systems, discharges from sanitary sewers and septic systems, and wildlife.

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