May 18, 2009

News Release

For Immediate Release

Healthy Swimming Choices Encouraged

As the Memorial Day holiday approaches, more people are likely to choose swimming as a recreational activity. Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week, May 18-24, highlights the importance of choosing healthy swimming locations and behaviors in order to reduce the risk of developing diarrhea and other illnesses.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department will begin sampling natural swimming sites in the area this week in order to provide residents with information to help them select a safer, healthier location for outdoor swimming. Water samples will be tested for the presence of coliform bacteria, which is an indication of fecal water contamination. The health department uses the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) established water quality criteria for monitoring bacteria. The standard specifies that no single water sample should have an E. coli count that exceeds 235 CFUs (colony forming units) per 100 ml of water. Water is generally considered suitable for swimming if the E. coli test results are 77 cfu (colony forming units) or less. Testing sites will include:

Natural bodies of water can contain harmful bacteria and parasites from human or animal waste and wastewater runoff. A person who swallows contaminated water or gets it in his mouth may develop a recreational water illness that can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported recreational water illness is diarrhea. The health department has recently seen an increase in shigellosis, which can be spread by hands, objects, surfaces, food or water contaminated by feces.

Weekly stream testing will be done through Labor Day. Results are posted by Friday each week on the health department's Web site at www.springfieldmo.gov/health.

Health department staff also inspect local public swimming pools as well as pools and spas at Springfield hotels and motels. Staff look for water quality, water clarity, safety equipment and environmental and safety concerns.

Chlorine in properly disinfected pools kills most germs that can cause recreational water illnesses (RWI) in less than an hour. However, swimmers are still encouraged to use common sense health precautions to protect themselves and others while swimming, such as:

Media contact: Jaci McReynolds, Public Information Administrator, (417) 874-1205 office, (417) 830-9511 cell

springfield greene county health department
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Harold K. Bengsch Building

227 E. Chestnut Expwy. • Springfield, MO 65802
417-864-1658 • health.springfieldmo.gov