The Portsmouth City Health Department is advising its citizens to use care and caution if they choose to swim in natural bodies of water. Infections of Shigella, which are likely associated with lakes in both Pike and Pickaway counties, are currently being reported.
Shigella is caused by a bacteria and is spread through the fecal-oral route, meaning fecal matter from an infected person is being ingested by swimmers.
“Anyone who swims in a body of water where the bacteria is present is at-risk,” Portsmouth Health Commissioner, Chris Smith, said. “But pools that have been properly treated should be safe.”
Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Aaron Adams said caution must always be observed.
“I think we should always be cautious swimming in lakes, streams because of the risk of contamination from septic systems, animal droppings. It’s just the risk you take when you do things like that.
“When I was a child we didn’t have swimming pools. You went to Lake Jackson, Lake Roosevelt, you went to Kinnikinnick. You did those things and nobody ever had a problem that they knew of, but that’s what you had.”
Adams said most pools have filtering systems, which makes them basically safe.
“Times change,” Adams said. “When you see what’s happening in Pike County and what we’re seeing in Deer Creek, with some Shigella exposure, particularly in people, it is similar to Salmonella, that’s definitely the risk you take and you always have a risk of that fecal-oral contamination.”
Adams said it is his understanding that authorities in Pike County still don’t have all the culture reports on the lakes and the water around that area.
The Portsmouth Health District also recommends that:
- People who are ill or have recently been ill with a diarrheal illness should not swim in lakes, ponds, or swimming pools. This will only spread illness.
- If you must go swimming, keep your head above water and avoid getting lake water into your mouth.
- Once out of the water wash your hands, and if possible spray off the rest of your body.
For more information about Shigella, including signs and symptoms, visit the health department’s agency’s Facebook page, where any alerts will also be posted, or go to www.cdc.gov/shigella.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext 1928
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