July 6, 2006
McHenry County Department of Health has joined with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remind families of the importance of healthy swimming behaviors.
Recreation water illnesses are spread by swallowing, breathing or having contact with contaminated water. The most commonly reported recreation water illness is diarrhea caused by pathogens, such as E. coli, shigella, giardia and cryptosporidium. Children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk for infection from these pathogens. Other recreation water illnesses can cause various symptoms, including skin, ear, eye, respiratory and neurological infections.
The county Health Department samples beaches and public pools during the summer months to monitor bacterial levels and will continue testing the 39 beaches in the county through Labor Day to assess water quality.
More frequent sampling is done when elevated bacterial levels are found in an initial test. T Bacteria level standards have been established by the Illinois Department of Public Health for bathing beach waters.
A variety of sources contribute bacteria to surface water — storm runoff following a rain, agricultural runoff, wild and domestic animal waste and bather defecation.
McHenry County samples its beaches for E. coli because it serves as a good indicator of bacterial contamination. Elevated counts increase the potential for infections and gastrointestinal illness. Samples are taken from both shallow and deep areas and tested at the department laboratory. Elevated E. coli counts will result in a swimmers advisory or closure of the beach until further sampling confirms the water quality at that beach is acceptable.
The Health Department will post signs at each beach, indicating any advisory or closure.
The following steps will help families make this summer a healthy swimming experience:
# Don’t swim when you have diarrhea;
# Don’t swallow pool water;
# Practice good hygiene — shower before swimming and wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers, because germs left on the body end up in the water;
# Take children on bathroom breaks;
# Use swim diapers on young children;
# Change diapers in bathrooms, not at poolside.
Anyone who becomes sick after swimming at a beach, notify McHenry County Department of Health at (815) 334-4585, as well as the beach operator. For updates on local beaches, call the county Health Department or log on to www.mcdh.com.
Additional tips about healthy swimming can be found at the Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming, and the Illinois Department of Public Health, www.idph.state.il.us/