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National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The County’s beach sampling program begins Wednesday, May 20th. This coincides with National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week. This annual observance raises awareness about healthy swimming behaviors, including ways to prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs) and injuries. RWIs are illnesses spread by swallowing, breathing in vapors of, or having contact with, contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, spas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans.

McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) tests the County’s 34 beaches at least every 2 weeks, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, to ensure residents enjoy a safe and healthy swimming season. Samples from all licensed public beaches on the 13 lakes are tested for bacterial levels and compared to acceptable limits set by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

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A variety of sources can cause bacteria in surface water – storm runoff following a rain, agricultural runoff, wild and domestic animal waste and bather defecation. Sampling beaches in both shallow and deep areas for E. coli serves as a good indicator of bacterial contamination. Results from the MCDH laboratory are posted weekly and can include a swimmer’s advisory or closure of the beach, if elevated E. coli levels are found. Check online for beach results at www.mcdh.info.

The best way to prevent RWIs is to keep out germs in the first place. Everyone can help create healthy swimming experiences this summer by following these six healthy swimming steps:

PLEASE don’t swim when you have diarrhea. PLEASE don’t swallow the water. PLEASE practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. PLEASE take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. PLEASE change diapers in a bathroom or diaper-changing area and not at poolside. PLEASE wash your children (after toileting) with soap and water before they go swimming.

Gastroenteritis-type illnesses are most common, with symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache and low grade fever. Early notification can prevent additional people from getting sick.