Murky water poses summer health risk

01:36, Dec 13 2013

Poll: Public Health South is warning swimmers to watch out for murky water, saying some popular Southland swimming spots could be exposing people to harmful infections or viruses.

Public Health South medical officer of health Derek Bell said swimming in murky water, particularly after heavy rain, could increase the risk of people becoming sick.

"Water quality is known to deteriorate after heavy rain because of runoff from the land," he said.

The most common health risks were eye, ear, nose and throat infections, but other conditions included giardiasis, salmonellosis and hepatitis A.

Dr Bell said it was important people knew what they were swimming in and "possibly ingesting".

Public Health South medical director women's health and public health directorate Marion Poore said there was an alert for the Waikaia River at Waikaia and Mataura River at Gore.


"There is a regular monitoring programme over summer to check popular water recreation sites for signs of contamination," Dr Poore said.

Environment Southland's "bathing water monitoring" website also had Colac Bay at Bungalow Hill Rd listed as a site posing "significant health risk" to swimmers.

Dr Poore said it was often hard to detect where people had contracted their illnesses but Public Health South was not aware of any gastroenteritis outbreaks in Southland.

"It usually takes several days from the time of exposure to becoming ill, making it very difficult to accurately confirm where people may have got their illness from," she said.

The warning urged people to consider taking shellfish from river mouths, drains and pipes only after five days of clear weather.


The Southland Times