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The Heart Beat: Ocean water not as pure as you think


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By Curtis Bovee

Staff Writer

If you are an avid beachgoer, it is inevitable that you are going to contract some sort of illness due to environmental and human contamination. World beaches and oceans certainly aren’t the cleanest playgrounds on Earth and they expose you to many viruses, parasites, and bacteria.

In addition, ocean water becomes contaminated with sewage storm run-off and oil, making you more susceptible to getting sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, microorganisms can enter through the oral route (ingestion), through the eyes, ears and nose, or through an open wound. Common more-serious illnesses you are at risk for include hepatitis A and MRSA, giardia, leptospirosis and many others.

According to Surfers Against Sewage, surfers are three times more likely to contract hepatitis A than the general public. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus and can be transmitted through exposure to contaminated water as well as many other routes.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is caused by an infection most often resistant to antibiotics—a huge problem for ocean enthusiasts, especially surfers. Individuals who engage in ocean sports are more susceptible to getting MRSA from the ocean due to entering the ocean with open wounds.

MRSA has been cultured near shores and in storm and sewer waters, imposing a huge risk of entering the ocean after a heavy rainfall.  Parasites and bacteria cause other illnesses like giardia and leptospirosis, respectively. It is especially common in places without proper sanitation to come into contact with bacteria and parasites, which will cause serious and uncomfortable complications.

Everyone is susceptible to these infections after entering the ocean; however, it is important that you take necessary preventive measures. These include good hand washing and hygiene practices, and ensuring that you don’t enter the ocean until 48 to 72 hours after a heavy rainfall. Understanding that the ocean contains contaminants detrimental to your health and taking necessary precautions will ultimately increase your time to use it as your playground.

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