Health officials warn of fecal bacteria in some Texas beaches

Fourth of July beach-goers are encouraged to stay safe when it comes to bacteria.

When planning a Fourth of July celebration in Texas, nothing seems to beat coming to the beach.

“July 4, this is the coolest place to be hot,” said South Padre Island Shoreline Director Brandon Hill. 

Folks who visit the Texas gulf every year will agree.

“It’s all about the beach and the water,” said Houston resident Carmen Leal.

For William Burge, who visits from San Antonio, heading to the beach in Texas is a tradition.

“It’s something we’ve been doing for our anniversary for 10 years,” he said.

While the beach is usually a safe and fun destination, there is a looming threat of contracting an infection in the water, an infection caused by fecal bacteria.

“The bacteria levels, I never thought about that really,” said Burge. 

“I heard about lakes and places like that, but the beach? It kind of surprised me,” added Leal. 

The Texas General Land Office wants to make sure beach-goers know the risk when bacteria levels rise.

Last week, they reported high levels in the Corpus Christi area at two of their beaches, while other destinations registered moderate levels.

“Around here, we’re always within the low bracket of the measurement,” Hill pointed out.

He said bacteria levels tend to rise after it rains.

“Fresh water causes some dissolved nutrients to be pushed into the local waters and that can cause much localized blooms that occur, often times dissipating within hours to days,” he said.

The risk is higher for beach-goers who swim in natural waters and have sores or cuts, especially those with diabetes or liver disease.

“I got a little cut and you would think that the salt water would be a healing mechanism for that,” said Dallas resident Linda Ingram. “It was surprising to kind of learn about some of the bacteria that comes up.”

The Galveston County Health District is working to reassure people, saying there were 100 times more people killed in car crashes in 2015 than there were infections at the beach.

While catching this bacteria may be rare, it still happens.

Health officials advise visitors keep an eye on those types of injuries and consult a doctor if the condition worsens. Recommendations are not meant to keep you from the beach, but rather prevent ruining your vacation.

Next time you head to the beach, look out for triangle shaped signs posted at the beach access. It will tell you if there's high bacteria concentrations in the water. You can also keep up with the latest advisory by visiting www.TexasBeachWatch.com.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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