SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - Nearly every beach in Southwest Louisiana is under a health advisory for high bacteria levels this week, but does that mean you should avoid them altogether?
Dr. B.J. Foch with the Region V Office of Public Health in Lake Charles explains just how big of a health threat this is and why this particular bacteria is concerning.
"Right now, 11 of the 14 beach locations in Southwest Louisiana actually have a swim advisory in place," he said.
The week of July 4th is always one of the biggest water weeks in our area. People boat, jet ski, and swim in our local waterways, even with these signs posted at many beaches.
Dr. Foch says says the signs are not to say the beach is closed, but to warn that swimming is not advised because of high bacteria levels.
"This is a potential health risk for the general public, but small children, the elderly, those who are chronically ill, or those with weakened immune systems, they may be at slightly greater risk," said Dr. Foch.
The Louisiana Beach Monitoring Program tests water samples at 24 beaches every week from April through October. Dr. Foch says it's specifically testing for enterococci bacteria.
"These bacteria known as enterococcus, they represent those that are commonly found in sewage pollution that could cause disease, could cause infections and rashes," he said.
Advisories for high levels of this bacteria are up at Constance Beach, Gulf Breeze, several Holly Beach sites, Lake Charles North, Lake Charles South, Little Florida, Martin, and Rutherford Beaches.
If you choose to go in the water anyway, Dr. Foch says there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting a water-borne illness.
"First of all, avoid swallowing the water, minimize immersing your head underneath the water when you do swim," he said. "Avoid swimming with an open cut or an open sore."
If you have nausea, diarrhea, are vomiting, feeling feverish or have body aches after swimming at a beach, you need to see a doctor.