Bacteria Water

Wild swimming exposes you to bacteria and viruses. Here’s how to stay safe.

Wild swimming has become a popular pastime, especially during the summer months when the temperatures are high. 27 wild swimming spots were designated as bathing waters by the English government. Many more people may consider giving this hobby try.

Environment Agency reports reveal that nearly 4 million hours of raw sewer was discharged into England’s rivers and coast waters last year, nearly twice the number reported in 2022. Many may wonder if swimming is still safe even at these designated areas.

Raw sewage contains a wide range of germs which can be harmful to our health.

E. coli, which most people know as E. coli can cause gastrointestinal and bladder infections. can cause serious symptoms such as severe diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It can also cause vomiting, pain when urinating, and severe nausea. It can also lead to ear infections.

The bacteria that causes this disease is one of the most common pathogens found in English waterways. It has even been detected at a few wild swimming sites.

Salmonella enterica and Shigella flexneri can all cause symptoms similar to E coli.

Weil’s disease is another bacterial illness that can be contracted from sewers, rivers and ponds that have been contaminated by rat urine. Weil’s Disease is usually not contagious or only causes mild flu-like symptoms. Some people, however, get very sick, with symptoms such as fever, nausea, diarrhea, and jaundice. Dogs may also become ill with leptospirosis if they drink or bathe in contaminated water.

Many viruses can be spread by wastewater. Norovirus and astrovirus can both cause vomiting and diarrhoea. They can also spread in swimming pool.

Hepatitis A is also spread by wastewater. If not treated immediately, this can lead to liver disease that is life-threatening. The chances of getting hepatitis A after a wild swimming are low, unless you consume a large amount of water.

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Antibiotics may be resistant to many microbes found in sewage water, as these organisms could have previously been exposed to them. Antibiotics can be used on humans and animals. These bacteria can cause infections that are more difficult to treat .

These heavy metals can cause serious poisoning or even cancer in rare cases. Ingestion of high levels can cause serious toxic poisoning, or in rare cases cancer.

Pesticides are also found in river water, especially when farmlands flood. pesticide poisoning can cause symptoms that are short-term (headaches and dizziness), or more serious effects that occur after a long-term exposure (more than 48 hours).

Swimming is safe

Swimming can cause contamination of the water to enter the body via the nose, eyes, mouth, and urinary system. Sometimes, infections can enter the body through the skin when someone has an abscess, a cut or a wound.

The amount of infectious agent (the number bacterial cells, or viral particles) can also be an important factor that determines whether or not a person will get sick after wild swimming. The amount of bacteria in the wastewater is determined by both the “microbial loading” (microbial cells/millilitre) as well as the amount of water that the swimmer swallows.

Salmonella, for example, needs a 50 000 cells in order to cause disease. Streptococcus requires only 200 cell.

It’s difficult to predict how severe a waterborne disease will be because different microbial strains are more or less infectious. E. coli strains, for example, can be more virulent, requiring only 10 to 100 cells to infect.

There are several ways to avoid getting sick and protect yourself from wild swimming.

Only swim in areas officially designated as “bathing water”. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will regularly test these waters throughout the bathing season (between May and Septembre) to ensure they are suitable for swimming.

You can use several online tools to check if a location is suitable for swimming, such as Swimming Map or Rivers Trust Sewage Map.

Wear earplugs or goggles when wild swimming. You will be protected from ear and eye infection if you are exposed to contaminated water. When swimming, avoid swallowing the water. You can still have a wild and refreshing swim by staying informed and taking the necessary precautions.