District Health Department No. 4 has issued a health advisory for Blair Street Beach in Alpena. Recent water samples from this beach contain a high level of bacteria. Swimming at Blair Street Beach is not advised until further notice. The health department will be conducting additional tests and monitoring the results. The unusually high level of bacteria (e-coli) seems to occur after heavy rains in the area.
Heavy rainfall and storm water runoff can contribute to the elevated bacteria levels as well as a high level of waterfowl activity along the shoreline. Animal and bird droppings can be washed into storm drains from residential neighborhood streets and yards and then be flushed into lakes.
Children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to develop illnesses or infections after coming into contact with contaminated water, usually while swimming. The most common illness is gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and the intestines that can cause symptoms like vomiting, headaches, and fever. Other minor illnesses include ear, eye, nose, and throat infections.
Fortunately, while swimming-related illnesses are unpleasant, they are usually not very serious, requiring little or no treatment or get better quickly upon treatment, and they have no long-term health effects. In very heavily contaminated water, however, swimmers can sometimes be exposed to more serious diseases.
Most swimmers are exposed to waterborne disease-causing organisms when they swallow the water. People can get some infections simply from getting polluted water on their skin or in their eyes.
There are several things you can do to stay safe and reduce the likelihood of getting sick from swimming at the beach.
District Health Department No. 4 will continue to monitor the water at the beach until it is determined safe for body contact. Until that time a sign will be posted at the beach site advising citizens that swimming is not recommended. Sampling results can be obtained by logging onto the Department of Environmental Quality's web site at www.deq.state.mi.us/beach and checking the status of the beach.