Health Department update on beaches
From the Florida Department of Health in Bay County:
HEALTHY BEACHES FACT SHEET
- The Bay County Health Department’s (Bay CHD) Healthy Beaches monitoring program runs from March through October. New funding will now allow for these sites to be tested weekly during the season.
- Bay CHD has 10 testing sites that are tested weekly on Mondays with the exception of holidays, then testing is done on Tuesdays. Testing results are usually returned on Tuesday afternoon, sometimes Wednesday morning or afternoon. Results are entered into a database which updates the Healthy Beaches website in real-time.
Healthy Beaches advisories are designed to protect swimmers from increased risk of gastrointestinal illnesses. At a lower occurring level, there may also be increased risks of upper respiratory infections, skin rashes, and ear infections. Healthy Beaches advisories are not related to Necrotizing fasciitis, a rare condition.
- Florida Healthy Beaches Program Categories are; Good = 0-35 Enterococci per 100 milliliters of marine water, Moderate = 36-70 Enterococci per 100 milliliters of marine water, and Poor = 71 or greater Enterococci per 100 milliliters of marine water. If levels are above 70, Bay CHD notifies the local Florida Department of Environmental Protection for further investigation.
We have six test sites along the Gulf of Mexico from Laguna Beach to Beach Access #1. We have four test sites along St. Andrews Bay including; Carl Grey Park, Beach Drive, Dupont Bridge, and Delwood Beach. Advisories are posted at the beach accesses if results are poor.
- Test results are sent in news releases to Bay County area media partners as well as other partners of Bay CHD. In addition, advisories are posted to our website, Bay.FloridaHealth.gov with full test results on the Florida Healthy Beaches Program page that is linked from Bay CHD’s page.
- The presence of enteric bacteria can be an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from stormwater runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage.
- For more information on the Healthy Beaches program for Bay County, visit Bay.FloridaHealth.gov.
Information on Necrotizing Fasciitis:
- Necrotizing fasciitis (many times called “flesh-eating bacteria” by the media) is caused by more than one type of bacteria. Several bacteria, common in our environment can cause this condition – the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis is Group A strep.
- People do not “catch” necrotizing fasciitis; it is a complication or symptom of a bacterial infection that has not been promptly or properly treated.
- Sometimes people call Vibrio vulnificus the “flesh eating bacteria.” Vibrio vulnificus is a naturally occurring bacteria found in warm salty waters such as the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding bays. Concentrations of this bacteria are higher when the water is warmer.
- Necrotizing fasciitis and severe infections with Vibrio vulnificus are rare. These infections can be treated with antibiotics and sometimes require surgery to remove damaged tissue. Rapid diagnosis is the key to effective treatment and recovery.
- If you are healthy with a strong immune system, your chances of developing or having complications due to this condition are extremely low.
How to reduce your risk of exposure:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages all people to avoid open bodies of water (such as the Gulf), pools and hot tubs with breaks in the skin. These can include cuts and scrapes, burns, insect bites, puncture wounds, or surgical wounds.
- The Florida Department of Health and the CDC encourage good wound care, as the best way to prevent any bacterial skin infection. Keep open wounds covered with clean, dry bandages until healed and don't delay first aid of even minor, non-infected wounds like blisters, scrapes or any break in the skin.
- You can prevent these types of infections when at the beach or bay by:
-- Avoiding walking, sitting, or swimming in Gulf or bay waters with open wounds,
-- Properly cleaning and treating wounds after:
- Accidentally exposing a wound to Gulf or bay waters,
- Getting an injury injured while in the water, or
- Getting an injury while cleaning or handling seafood.
-- Seeking medical treatment immediately if you develop signs or symptoms of an infection (redness, swelling, fever, severe pain in area of red or swollen skin) near or around a wound.
- People with the greatest risk of exposure to bacteria in water bodies, pools or hots tubs are very young children, the elderly ( over 64 years old), and people with chronic diseases and/or weaken immune systems since their ability to fight off infection can be limited by disease or age. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Gulf, bay, pools or hot tubs. Rather you are encouraged to monitor your overall health and skin condition for possible signs of infection.
- It is important for individuals receiving medical care to let their doctor know of any recent exposure to Gulf or bay waters, pools or hot tubs. Timely treatment is necessary to prevent serious complications.
For more beach safety tips, watch this video.