While a vacation or beach vacation is meant to be fun, it can also be a magnet for illness if you’re not careful. Most people want to stick their feet in the sand or swim in the ocean, but sometimes it comes at a price.
Some dangerous bacteria hang out on the beach. If you are not careful, you may have to cut off your trip with a visit to a doctor. Here are 10 nasty diseases lurking on your favorite beaches.
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Viral hepatitis inflames the liver and usually comes in the form of A, B, or C strains. In severe cases, cirrhosis of the liver can occur, and some patients may eventually develop cancer. The strains are most commonly transmitted through feces or blood, but medical waste that is improperly handled can expose surfers and swimmers to hepatitis.
According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis A is rarely associated with recreational water, but the possibility still exists. In 2006, a study conducted by San Diego State University found that 79 percent of the water samples tested contained hepatitis A. Sewage runoff in the San Diego area causes pollution, and immunization programs are now available for surfers in the area.
9 Legionnaires’ disease
Legionella Bacteria can be found in hot tubs as they grow best in warm water between 35 degrees Celsius and 46 degrees Celsius. On the beach, a public shower is the best place to get Legionnaires’ disease. In 2007, seven out of 36 beach showers across southern Italy tested positive for the most common strain of bacteria.
In 2005, a study found 32 strains of Legionella in the seawater of New England. Although the bacteria were not infectious, this research shows it Legionella finds warm sea water a good living environment.
Legionnaires’ disease is like pneumonia, causing a cough, fever, and muscle pain that can last for up to two weeks. Although most infected patients see their symptoms go away after a round of antibiotics, around 15 percent of cases are fatal.
8th Stomach bugs
We have all experienced stomach problems at some point in our lives. But did you know that the beach is a good place to find pathogens that cause stomach problems?
Poop is the main cause of this type of disease on the beach. Feces and microbes were found in sand samples from beaches. They likely came from nearby sewage treatment plants or from severe storms that carried human and animal waste from the source.
These stomach problems can cause nausea and cramps, which can even lead to gastroenteritis. It has been found that digging in the sand on the beach increases the risk of diarrhea.
Beach goers are likely to be exposed to known pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonellaor norovirus, the most common stomach flu in America.
7th Cercarial dermatitis
Cercarial dermatitis is more commonly known as swimmer itching. Exposure to trematode parasite larvae can result in a blotchy rash in the infected area. You will usually notice the rash within 48 hours of exposure and it can last for up to seven days.
The parasites usually infect slugs and then work their way up to birds, but humans are occasionally infected as well. The rash can usually be treated with an antihistamine. Corticosteroid cream can also bring some relief.
6th Meat-eating bacteria
You’ve probably heard of carnivorous bacteria on the beach in the past few years, but the chances of getting infected are quite small. According to the CDC, there is an average of 95 cases of in the US Vibrio vulnificus Infections per year resulting in 85 hospitalizations and 35 deaths. Half of these cases come from waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
The bacteria that can enter a swimmer’s body through open wounds cause the skin to break down and become ulcerated. Raw oysters can also harbor the microbe, causing those affected to suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea.
Antibiotics usually improve a patient’s chances of recovery, but amputation may be required. The best way to avoid carnivorous bacteria is to stay away from the water with open wounds and watch out for the shellfish that you eat.
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We love digging our toes in the sand while vacationing on the beach, but this can be a great way to get in touch with hookworms. This parasite can be acquired by walking barefoot on soil contaminated with human feces or by ingesting hookworm eggs.
The eggs spread wherever water moves the bottom, making the beach the perfect place to find them. These eggs eventually grow into small larvae and try to cling to the animal skin.
When you have hookworms, possible symptoms include an itchy rash, stomach pain, nausea, weight loss, and diarrhea. Hookworms can be easily prevented by wearing sandals to the beach, sitting on towels on the floor, and washing your body with soap and water after touching the soil and sand.
If you do come across the parasite, pills like albendazole or mebendazole should fix the problem.
The warm water and high traffic make the beaches a breeding ground for methicillin-resistant beaches Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA. A staph infection starts as a tiny bump that resembles a pimple, but it can turn into a large abscess.
At this point, it grows deep into the body and is a risk to bones and organs. In severe cases, pneumonia or other forms of shortness of breath can occur. Smaller skin infections are usually treated with antibiotic ointments, but more severe cases require surgery.
Swimmers in subtropical marine waters have a 37 percent chance of coming into contact with some form of staph. In 2012, a survey found that 1.6 percent of their seawater samples and 2.7 percent of their sand samples contained MRSA. Staphylococci consume salt as the main nutrient, which is why it survives longer in seawater than freshwater beaches.
3 Brain-eating amoeba
Naegleria fowleri is a brain-eating amoeba that is extremely rare and only endangers freshwater beach goers. It visits the warm water and bottoms of freshwater lakes and ponds, which means that swimmers in seawater shouldn’t have to worry about the infection.
N. Fowleri penetrates a swimmer’s body through the nose and works its way to the brain. Although it lives on bacteria, it uses up everything in the brain that is in front of it.
Symptoms are fever, headache, and vomiting. The usually fatal infection becomes more violent over time, causing fits and hallucinations before the person falls into a coma.
The CDC confirmed that only 34 cases were associated with recreational waters between 2009 and 2018. They even believe that it is okay to consume water that contains it N. Fowleri because the acids in the stomach kill the microbe instantly.
2 Blooming algae
Most ocean algae are harmless, but some produce insanely nasty toxins. Runoffs can carry nitrogen and phosphorus into waterways, causing population explosions known as blooms.
These harmful algal blooms contaminate drinking water. Swimmers can also inhale the toxins through water vapor, swallow them or absorb them through the skin. Some of the toxins attack the nervous system while others damage the liver.
Touching the algae can cause rashes and skin sores. Swimmers who inhale or ingest the contaminated water may experience cramps, diarrhea, nausea, coughs and ear infections.
Dinoflagellates cause the harmful algal blooms known as red tides that are found in salt water. The chemicals produced by these algae can destroy nerve cells and cause problems with the eyes and throat.
Beach goers also need to watch out for roundworms. These parasites usually live in your dog’s intestines and feces. Most people are infected by accidental ingestion, and children are more likely to be affected than adults.
Beach goers won’t know they are anywhere near the parasite, but proper contact with sand could help trigger the infection. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, cough, diarrhea, shortness of breath, fever, abdominal pain, and even worms in the feces. Several drugs can be prescribed to treat roundworms, and many treatments will work well.
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