Swimmers at beaches face an increased risk of illness, according to a new research.
The study, led by a team of University of Miami researchers, examined the risk of illness that beachgoers face when exposed to recreational marine water at sub-tropical beaches with no known source of pollution or contamination.
The study enlisted more than 1,300 volunteers, all local residents who regularly use South Florida beaches.
Researchers divided study participants into two groups: volunteers who went into the water and those instructed to stay out of the water. The group that went in the water was asked to dunk themselves completely in the water three times over a fifteen-minute period. A few days later both sets of participants received follow-up calls from researchers, checking on their health and well being.
"We found that when swimming in sub-tropical beach areas with no known pollution or contamination from sewage or runoff, you still have a chance of being exposed to the kind of microbes that can make you sick," said Dr. Lora Fleming, co-director of the Center for Oceans and Human Health (OHH) and Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Miami, who directed the study, the first large epidemiologic survey of its kind.
"This information is especially important to take into account for children and the elderly, or if you have a compromised immune system and are planning a beach outing."
The study found that the swimmers were 1.76 times more likely to report a gastrointestinal illness, and 4.46 times more likely to report having a fever or respiratory illness.
Swimmers in the study were also nearly six times more likely to report a skin illness than those volunteers who stayed out of the water.