Favorite Arkansas Swimming Hole Source of E. Coli Infections


Swimming in rivers and ponds are considered a great way to cool off in the summer time. Many states have favorite swimming holes like the North Fork of the Saline River in Arkansas. Unfortunately these areas can be a source of recreational water illnesses (RWIs).

In Arkansas, there have been four documented E. coli infections due to swimming in the North Fork swimming hole of the Saline River in the past month. One has been especially serious, putting a 5 year old girl in the hospital with kidney failure.

According to Benton Courier, Emma Williams of Benton and her family went swimming at the area about two weeks ago. Soon after, Emma experienced diarrhea and vomiting. She was seen at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, but sent home without a diagnosis. Emma was taken back to the hospital the next day as her condition worsened. She has been diagnosed with a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, pale skin, irritability, decreased urine output, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth, and swelling of the face, hands, feet or body.


The water in the swimming hole of the North Fork has been found to be over the limit of the normal amount of E.coli. According to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the limit is 127 parts per million of E.coli, but this area had nearly three times that amount.

The Health Department routinely inspects 146 public swim beaches in the state for water safety, but does not test lakes, rivers or streams where there is no designated public swimming area. The North Fork swimming hole is not one of them.

E. coli contamination of rivers and ponds are especially common near livestock farms and feral pigs. Just like humans, the animals look for places to cool off.

The Arkansas Department of Health gives these tips for safe swimming in recreational water.
Three Steps for All Swimmers
Keep germs from causing recreational water illnesses (RWIs):

  1. Don't swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  2. Don't swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
  3. Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

Three Steps for Parents of Young Kids
Keep germs out of the pool:

  1. Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.
  2. Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
  3. Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.

Arkansas Department of Health
Benton Courier