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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

June 21, 2002


Charlotte, NC – After this year’s third swimming advisory involving area lakes, the Mecklenburg County Health Department is reminding swimmers that waterborne germs can be present in any body of water.  

Thousands of people become ill each year from swimming in pools and other recreational waters such as hot tubs, wading fountains, water parks, as well as lakes, rivers and the ocean.  Bacteria that we usually associate with food, like E. coli 0157:H7 and Shigella, as well as waterborne germs like “Crypto” and Giardia, are the main sources of these illnesses. 

Illness caused by these germs can cause gastrointestinal symptoms that can last from several days to several weeks.  E. coli 0157:H7 can cause severe kidney damage and can be life threatening, especially in young children and babies. 

These illnesses are spread by accidentally swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter.  Pool water is not sterile.  Chlorine kills germs that can cause illness, but chlorine does not work right away.  It takes time to kill some of these germs, and some, like “Crypto,” can live in chlorinated pool water for days.  So even the best maintained pools or other recreational waters could potentially spread illnesses. 

A swimming advisory is in effect for a section of Mountain Island Lake after a sewage release from a failing septic system.  Mecklenburg County issued swimming advisories for portions of Lake Cornelius and Lake Wylie in May.  Those advisories have since been lifted. 

Be a smart swimmer and stay healthy this summer by remembering the following: 

·         Don’t swallow the water!  Try to avoid even having water get in your mouth.               

·         Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.  This is especially important for kids in diapers.

·         Wash your hands and your child’s hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

·         Everyone should shower before swimming.  Be sure to wash your child thoroughly with soap and water, especially the hands and diaper area.

·         Take your kids on frequent bathroom breaks.  Don’t wait until you hear “I have to go”. 

·         Change diapers in the bathroom, not at poolside.  Germs can spread to other surfaces and cause illness. 

For more information about waterborne illness, call the Health Department’s Communicable Disease Control Program at 704-336-6438.

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