State health officials urge swimming safety

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With summer here, state health officials are issuing an alert for anyone heading to the water.  Whether it's your backyard pool or the salt water in the Gulf, microscopic dangers may be waiting.

"All of us are susceptible, but we do know that the elderly or those that are immunocompromised conditions are at a greater risk," Dr. Marilyn Reynaud

Dr. Marilyn Reynaud, Regional Administrator Medical Director with the Department of Health and Hospitals, explains that all natural bodies of water have germs, bacteria and micro-organisms.  Some occur naturally, but some are spread through human or animal waste.  For most healthy people, these organisms pose little risk.  However, they can cause serious illnesses for those with weakened immune systems if ingested or infected.

"We have all probably heard of naegleria fowle," said Reynaud.  "It's also known as the brain eating ameba."

Last year also saw several cases of vibrio vulnificus, a flesh eating bacteria that can cause an infection when exposed to an open wound.

However, health officials say you should not be scared of the water.  A few simple precautions can keep you and your family safe.  The DHH lists the following on its website:

  • Do not swim near a drainage pipe or in a ditch, or near runoff or littered areas.
  • Do not swim in areas that have posted warnings against swimming there.
  • Avoid swimming after heavy rains.
  • Avoid ingesting or swallowing the water.
  • Minimize dunking your head underwater when swimming.
  • Avoid swimming with an open cut or wound.
  • Shower or bathe immediately after swimming in a public waterway.

Also, make sure pools are properly chlorinated; this kills harmful bacteria.  If you're using a back yard kiddie pool or slip-n-slide, use fresh water each time.

Finally, Reynaud says to remember standard swimming and boating safety.  Always wear a life jacket on a boat, do not swim alone and always have adult supervision. For more information click here.

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