Bad news: Swimming in rivers, lakes and oceans can make you seriously sick. According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disease outbreaks associated with swimming in “untreated recreational water” are much more common than previously thought.
The report examined illnesses linked to swimming in these bodies of water over the course of 14 years—2000 to 2014. During this time, public health officials in 35 states and Guam reported 140 disease outbreaks that were connected to swimming in untreated water, mainly at beaches and public parks. As a result of these outbreaks, 4,958 illnesses were contracted and two people died, Time reports.
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Pathogens like norovirus, Shigella and E. coli caused most of the outbreaks due to people unknowingly ingesting water contaminated with fecal matter. Parasites transmitted by birds were another major cause of illness, with the highest risk of infection being during June to August. Interestingly enough, 60 percent of the cases happened in July.
In order to protect yourself, the CDC recommends avoiding “discolored, smelly, foamy or scummy” water and over-crowded, poorly circulating rivers, lakes and oceans. Additionally, people should avoid entering public waters when sick in order to reduce disease transmission. While this shouldn’t deter you from enjoying a swim every now and then, it is a good reminder to be cautious when doing so.
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