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Warning system inadequate to prevent swimmers from getting sick at inland lakes
Date:8/18/2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio New research shows a clear link between increasing levels of E. coli bacteria in an inland Ohio lake and a greater risk that swimmers in the water will suffer a gastrointestinal illness.

While the finding reinforces conventional wisdom, it is among very few studies to have quantified the risk for illness at an inland beach. Most similar work has examined the Great Lakes or coastal waters.

And there is a hitch: The testing method that measures E. coli levels at beaches takes at least 18 hours, and usually longer, to produce a result. So any swimming advisory based on that information is posted at least a day too late.

The researchers say their work calls attention to the need for a reliable method to predict when bacteria levels are likely to be higher than usual at an inland lake so advisories can be posted in a more timely way.

"It doesn't help, from a public health perspective, for the testing results to reveal themselves 24 hours after exposure has occurred. I think there's really a critical need for predictive methods, which allow us to anticipate, rather than to know after the fact, when E. coli levels will be elevated," said Timothy Buckley, associate professor and chair of environmental health sciences at Ohio State University and senior author of the study.

Such predictors of E. coli problems at inland lakes might be on the horizon. The lead author of the paper, Jason Marion, a doctoral student in Ohio State's College of Public Health, hopes to identify reliable predictors that can be easily and quickly measured to allow advance warnings to beachgoers when risks for illness are increased.

Buckley and Marion emphasize that this work is not intended to discourage recreation at inland lakes, but is instead focused on preventing illness among beachgoers when water quality conditions are not ideal.

"We need a better way of telling swimmers when the
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Contact: Timothy Buckley
tbuckley@cph.osu.edu
614-292-5546
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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