NH DHHS Observes National Recreational Water Illness Week

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), along with the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is observing the week before Memorial Day (May 24–30, 2010) as National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week. The goal of this observance is to raise awareness about healthy swimming behaviors, including ways to prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs).

“Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity needed for a healthy life, and most Granite Staters and our visitors enjoy swimming in New Hampshire’s lakes, oceans, rivers and pools each summer,” said Dr. Jose Montero, Director of Public Health Services. “However, it is important to be aware of ways to prevent water-related adverse health events, from sunburn and swimming injuries to recreational water illnesses.”

Recreational water illnesses caused by parasites, viruses, and bacteria are spread by swallowing, breathing in, or having contact with contaminated water in lakes, rivers, oceans, or swimming pools. They can be avoided through common-sense precautions such as knowing the status of recreational beaches and waterways, keeping germs out of the pool, and practicing good health habits with infants and young children.

Waterborne illnesses can cause a variety of symptoms including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported symptom is diarrhea, which can be caused by Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, E. coli, and norovirus. In 2009, there were 75 cases of Cryptosporidiosis, 185 cases of Giardiasis, 20 cases of Shigellosis, and 38 cases of toxic E. coli infections reported to the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services.

Everyone can help create healthy swimming experiences this summer by following these healthy swimming steps:

Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
Don’t swallow pool water.
Practice good health habits. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
Take your children on bathroom breaks or check diapers often.
Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at  poolside.
Wash young children thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before they go swimming.
Remember the importance of proper supervision of children around water.
Encourage others to be aware of water quality and cleanliness.
Make sure that swimming pools are properly cleaned and maintained.
Look for safety signs at beaches.

For more information on National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week visit the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control at www.cdc.gov. For information on New Hampshire State Parks and Beach Advisories visit the Division of Parks and Recreation website at http://www.nhparks.state.nh.us, and for New Hampshire Public Health information visit the DHHS website at www.dhhs.nh.gov.