JOHN ROBBINS/Bullet News
NIAGARA – Public health officials will neither confirm nor deny reports a person was recently treated in hospital for an E. coli infection after swimming at a Lake Erie beach.
Dr. Jessica Hopkins, associate medical officer of health, said Monday privacy rules prevent the agency from speaking about specific cases reported to public health.
However, there’s no need for alarm.
“We are currently not seeing any increase in cases,” said Hopkins.
“There’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
Escherichia coli are bacteria that normally live in the intestines of humans and animals. Although most strains of this bacteria are harmless, several are known to produce toxins that can cause diarrhea.
One particular strain of E. coli called 0157:H7 can cause severe diarrhea and kidney damage.
Serious cases of E. coli are reported to Niagara Region Public Health, where information is tracked to see if there’s a common cause.
Hopkins said fewer than 10 serious cases are reported in Niagara a year.
Those cases are caused by a variety of methods, including contaminated food products.
And not all cases reported in Niagara originate here.
Sometimes people contract the illness while travelling, but are diagnosed and treated only after they return home, Hopkins said.
Public health regularly tests water quality at local beaches popular with swimmers and boaters during the summer months.
When bacteria levels in the water exceed certain levels, a beach is posted as unsafe for swimming.
Water quality changes frequently given the dynamic nature of beaches. A spike in bacteria levels after a heavy rainfall is common as runoff from creeks and storm sewers washes contaminants into the lakes.
Its not uncommon for some beach goers to ignore the warning signs and enter the water at beaches that have been posted as unsafe for swimming due to high bacteria levels.
Such was the case Monday in Fort Erie when warm weather lured hundreds of bathers to Bay Beach, perhaps the most popular swimming hole in Niagara. Signs clearly noting the beach had been posted as unsafe for swimming were observed next to the beach entrances, but few people who saw the signs turned back.
As of Wednesday morning, Bay Beach was listed as open for swimming as updated test results show bacteria levels have since dropped.
Here’s a look at the status of local beaches as of Aug. 1, 2012
Bay Beach (Crystal) – Open for Swimming
Bellview Beach – Open for Swimming
Bernard Avenue Beach – Unsafe to Swim
Charles Daley Park East – Open for Swimming
Charles Daley Park West – Open for Swimming
Chippawa Conservation Beach – Open for Swimming
Crescent Beach – Unsafe to Swim
Fifty Point Conservation Beach – Open for Swimming
Grimsby Beach – Open for Swimming – Open for Swimming
Humberstone Centennial Park – Unsafe to Swim
Jones Beach – Unsafe to Swim
Lakeside Beach – Open for Swimming
Long Beach – Open for Swimming
Long Beach Conservation East – Unsafe to Swim
Long Beach Conservation West – Open for Swimming
Municipal Beach – Open for Swimming
Nelles Beach – Open for Swimming
Nickel Beach – Open for Swimming
Queen’s Royal Beach – Open for Swimming
Ryerson Park Beach – Unsafe to Swim
Sherkston Elco – Open for Swimming
Sherkston Quarry Beach – Unsafe to Swim
Sherkston Wyldewood Beach – Open for Swimming
Wainfleet Lake Erie Public Access – Open for Swimming
Waverly Beach – Open for Swimming
Windmill Point Park Quarry – Open for Swimming
The status of beaches changes frequently as new test results are posted. Keep up to date by checking the Niagara Region Public Health website beach water quality site by clicking HERE.