Jersey Shore beaches closed for high bacteria levels: What are the dangers?

Source: NJ.com Health
This week, the Department of Environmental Protection website lists beach closures on the Toms River as well as water quality advisories at 31 ocean, bay or river beaches from Monmouth to Cape May counties because of high levels of enterococci.
The enterococcus bacteria is regularly monitored because it hints at the presence of untreated fecal waste from humans or animals. Traditionally, areas that have inadequate stormwater runoff systems have experienced these closures when heavy rains wash the feces of geese and other animals into the water. The waste can get into the ocean if heavy rains overwhelm the surrounding storm-water drainage system.
To be of concern, a water sample must exceed 104 colony-forming units of the enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters of water. A first sample exceeding that level triggers the issuance of an advisory and the water has to be sampled the following day. If the second sample remains high, the beach is closed to swimming and remains closed until the sample falls under the limit.
Since every beach can’t be tested every day, some swimmers may have frolicked in water that wasn’t very clean. To find out what steps people can take to protect themselves from illness – we posed some questions to Richard Mojares, an internist and pediatrician with Family First Urgent Care in the Monmouth County town of Oakhurst.
What illnesses do you see most often as a result of swimming in fouled water?
One of the things that people get is otitis externa, which is swimmer’s ear, an infection of the outer ear. They can also get conjunctivitis, which is an infection of the eyes. Also they can get skin infections if they go into the water with an open wound. If they swallow the water, they can get gastrointestinal problems.
When do symptoms typically show up?
Symptoms usually show up the same day, or in the next day or two.
When should someone see a doctor?
They should see a doctor the next day if they suspect if they’re having an infection. The ears, eyes and the skin infections can spread rapidly. In the skin infections, if there’s some contamination, that can spread rather fast. We see that a lot here down at the Shore.
Are children more susceptible than adults?
They are, because they just don’t realize they need to keep their eyes closed in the water, or to get the water out of their ears when they’re done swimming. Children also swallow the water, which can cause abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. They really need to see a doctor right away.
Do any of these ailments linger?
They do linger if people don’t get medical attention right away.
Are there any home remedies a swimmer could take after emerging from questionable water?
I would definitely take a shower immediately, and wash off any areas of the body that touched the water. If people develop gastrointestinal symptoms, they should stay hydrated – but they also need to see a doctor.

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