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TAKE PRECAUTIONS WHILE ENJOYING FRESH WATER ACTIVITIES DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS

By Kent Donahue

May 21, 2020

 

Summer is right around the corner, and the Florida Department of Health in Orange County reminds families to be safe when enjoying fresh water activities, especially the week before Memorial Day, which is recognized as Healthy and Safe Swimming Week (May 18 – 24, 2020).  

Remember, everyone plays a role in preventing injuries, drownings, and illnesses caused by germs in the water.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Proper operation and disinfection of pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds should kill the virus that causes COVID-19. It is encouraged to limit close contact with people outside your home in public spaces, both in and out of the water. 

Preventing Disease Outbreaks

Chemicals like chlorine are added to pool water to kill germs and stop them from spreading, helping to keep swimmers healthy. However, mishandling pool chemicals can cause injuries. Operators of public pools, hot tubs/spas, or water playgrounds and owners of residential pools or hot tubs/spas can take steps to prevent pool chemicals injuries, such as reading and following directions on product labels of pool chemicals before using them. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/index.html

Naegleria fowleri

Take precautions when enjoying fresh water activities locally or when traveling abroad, especially swimming in warm freshwater lakes, hot springs, rivers, creeks and ponds to avoid Naegleria fowleri. It’s a naturally occurring amoeba that can be found in any body of fresh water and in poorly maintained swimming pools and hot tubs. The amoeba is not found in salt water. 

The amoeba can cause an infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Almost always fatal, the amoeba travels up the nose to the brain and spinal cord. This generally happens during activities such as swimming, diving, waterskiing or wakeboarding. 

Infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels. 

Although infections are rare, most prove to be fatal. Seek medical care immediately if you develop a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, and vomiting especially if you have been in warm fresh water within the previous 2 weeks. 

People should always assume there is a low level of risk for infection whenever entering warm fresh water.

Below are some tips to help reduce your risk of infection.

  • Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally-polluted water such as water around power plants;
  • Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels;
  • Keep your head out of the water, hold your nose shut or using nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs; and
  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas. 

For information on the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/index.html.

About the Florida Department of Health

The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, and community efforts.

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