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Jaws of a different color?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water comes a study showing a greater incidence of illness among swimmers than nonswimmers.

Patricia L. Seyfried and her colleagues at the University of Toronto queried more than 8,000 people at 10 beaches in the Lake Huron-Lake Ontario area about their current health status and whether they had swum in the past four days or were planning to swim that day. The researchers phoned each person seven to 10 days later to inquire about their health. The analysis of the 4,537 replies showed an illness rate of 69.6 per 1,000 swimmers, while among nonswimmers the rate was only 29.5 per 1,000.

But that doesn't mean fear of swimming is justified, Seyfried says. "The health benefits of swimming far outweigh any health risks. The types of ilnness we saw weren't health risks."

The illnesses in order of prevalence were respiratory, gastrointestinal, eye, ear an skin infections, tailed by allergic reactions.

At the time of the initial survey, the researchers measured the levels of different types of bacteria in the water, and found the incidence of illness correspond most closely to the level of staphylococcus and intestinal bacteria, and less closely to several other types of bacteria. The source, they say, is sewage as well as respiratory and gastrointestinal pathogens shed by bathers; still water, low rainfall and crowded beaches exacerbate the problem.

Previous studies of ocean beaches have linked illness to waterborne bacteria; the current study, says Martin S. Favero of the Centers of Disease Control in an accompanying editorial, extends the connection to freshwater areas.
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Title Annotation:study shows more illness among swimmers than nonswimmers
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 21, 1985
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