The Health Department reports several cases of diarrheal illness from people who've swum in the Saline River near the Highway 5 bridge. Tests show the water is unsafe for swimming, the department said in a news release.
HEALTH DEPARTMENT NEWS RELEASE
Illness Linked to Swimming in Saline River
(Little Rock) - Three cases of severe diarrheal illness have occurred in Saline County this month and have been linked to swimming in the Saline River near the Highway Five Bridge. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has tested water from the area and found it to be unsafe for swimming.
According to Dr. James Phillips, Infectious Disease Branch Chief at ADH, summertime weather can contribute to the risk of infection, because water in the rivers, lakes and coves moves more slowly or doesn't circulate as much, and the warmer temperatures encourage the growth of bacteria like E. coli.
"We are posting warnings on this particular stretch of the river, but people need to know that swimming in rivers, lakes and streams anywhere in the state can be dangerous to your health," Phillips said. "Parents need to understand the risk to small children, and how to prevent recreational water illness."
Drinking or accidentally swallowing water from any untreated water source could potentially result in water borne related illness. Examples of symptoms of such illnesses could include diarrhea, cramps and nausea. Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers or oceans.
RWIs can result in a wide variety of infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Diarrheal illnesses can be caused by germs such as Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium) ,Giardia, Shigella, norovirus and E. coli. In the past two decades, there has been an increase in the number of RWI outbreaks associated with swimming.
The Health Department routinely inspects 146 public swim beaches in the state for water safety, but does not test lakes, rivers or streams where there is no designated public swimming area.
Here are six good rules to follow for swimming safety:
Three Steps for All Swimmers
Keep germs from causing recreational water illnesses (RWIs):
· Don't swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
· Don't swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
· Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
Three Steps for Parents of Young Kids
Keep germs out of the pool:
· Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.
· Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
· Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has excellent guidance on RWIs and swimming safety posted at
If you have concerns about the safety of your drinking water or the water at your public swim beach or swimming pool, you should contact the County Health Department local health unit nearest you and ask to speak to the environmental health specialist in your area. For a complete list of locations and phone numbers, visit our website at www.healthyarkansas.com , or call 501-661-2000 for assistance.