As families pack up the car with coolers, blankets, food and fishing poles for a fun-filled time along the coast, there’s one more thing that should be checked before heading to the beach — health advisories.
Every week, the state Department of Health tests and posts the results of water quality samples taken along Louisiana’s beaches. The tests specifically look for a group of bacteria commonly found in sewage and can cause illness like rashes, stomach problems or infections.
Starting in April and running through the end of October, these advisories are posted online as well as via signs at the beaches to give people more information about possible risks.
“We want to inform everyone that there is a potential for infection,” said Dr. Marilyn Reynaud, state Department of Health regional medical director for the Baton Rouge area.
The risk of illness in locations with advisories is highest for the young, elderly, those with immune deficiencies and people with an open wound, she said. If water does get into a wound, it should be cleaned and disinfected immediately. Any infected wound should be seen by medical personnel immediately.
A total of 772 samples were taken at 24 stations along the coast during the 2015 season resulting in 65 advisories at 22 of the 24 sites.
In advisory areas, people who decide to go swimming should try to avoid swallowing water or dunking their head below the water, Reynaud said. In addition, showering after swimming in an advisory area can also help.
The primary source of the bacteria is faulty sewer systems which can put even more bacteria into the water after heavy rains. It’s not a bad idea to delay swimming in an area after a heavy rain, Reynaud said.
More information about the beach monitoring program and the list of advisories for the 24 Louisiana tested beach sections in the state is available at dhh.louisiana.gov. Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have similar beach sites with any current advisories.
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