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May 26, 2016

Summer has arrived and families are already planning many fun water related activates. The Florida Department of Health in Orange County would like to remind everyone to be safe this Memorial Day weekend and the entire summer months. The week before Memorial Day (May 23–29, 2016) is recognized as Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. Everyone plays a role in preventing illnesses, caused by germs in the water, and injuries, such as drowning.

One of the concerns is the ameba called Naegleria fowleri which is found in fresh water such as lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, and hot springs. It also can be present in poorly maintained swimming pools and hot tubs. Although uncommon, the infection it causes called Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, (PAM) is almost always fatal. The infection occurs when water containing the ameba enters the nose and then invades the brain. The ameba is not found in salt water (ocean or gulf).

Tragically, because the infection is uncommon, the usual symptoms  of headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff or painful neck, seen within about 2 weeks after infection (after the water activity) are not associated with the ameba, and medical treatment, once started, is unsuccessful. Almost all cases are fatal, but survival may be improved with early recognition and early medical treatment.

The best way to avoid infection is to avoid activities in untreated fresh water. Keeping your head out of the water, holding your nose shut or using nose clips when engaging in recreational freshwater activities may also decrease your chances of acquiring this infection. Please see  and for more information.

Other recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs that are spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs/spas, water playgrounds, lakes, rivers, or oceans. RWIs are caused by a wide variety of infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections It’s important to keep germs, pee, poop, sweat, and dirt out of the water we share and swim in.

In order to prevent RWIs remember to stay out of the water if you have diarrhea, shower before you get in the water, don’t pee or poop in the water, and don’t swallow the water.

Every day, two children less than 14 years old die from drowning, and children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. Learn how to swim, and teach children how to swim, use life jackets, provide continuous supervision of swimmers, and know CPR. Prevent unsupervised access to pools. Pool owners should install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers and use locks/alarms for windows and doors.