Boost Immune System | Natural Health Blog

Date: 03/07/2009    Written by: Jon Barron

Toxic Beaches Host MRSA

Many of us go to the beach to get away from crowds, cell-phones, and cigarettes, but increasingly, the beach is becoming just one more place where the toxic crush of civilization can't be avoided. Now a study has found that antibiotic-resistant MRSA, which causes dangerous staph infections that won't go away, can be caught from swimming in the ocean or even from sitting on the sand.

The research involved 1300 beachgoers, half of whom sat on the sand at a popular South Florida beach. The other half dunked three times in the ocean water. Afterwards, samples of water surrounding the swimmers revealed that 37 percent of them had been exposed to the Staphylococcus aureus microbe, which causes staph infection, and three percent had contact with a dangerous strain of the microbe MRSA. Although none of the subjects actually contracted MRSA after their beach escapade, the potential for infection certainly exists.

According to research director Dr. Lisa Plano of the University of Miami, "MRSA is in the water and potentially in the sand. This constitutes a risk to anyone who goes to the beach and uses the water ... Most of us won't get infected but it only takes one infected person to spread [MRSA to others]."

The MRSA threat is greatest in subtropical waters, such as in Florida and Hawaii, where temperatures allow the microbes to thrive. Scientists have known for a while that MRSA can colonize in water, but this is the first evidence that the bacteria actually lingers in ocean water after being sloughed off from other swimmers.

Dr. Plano explains, "Our study found that if you swim in subtropical marine waters, you have a significant chance, approximately 37 per cent of being exposed to 'staph'. This exposure might lead to colonization or infection by waterborne bacteria which are shed from every person who enters the water. People who have open wounds or are immune-compromised are at the greatest risk of infection."

Contracting MRSA at the beach isn't like, for instance, picking up a case of sand fleas. MRSA kills 19,000 people in the US alone annually. In fact, 20 percent of those who get MRSA infections die from them. Although it typically starts as a skin infection, MRSA can spread to the lungs, causing pneumonia and other deadly diseases.

In fact, reports of beach-related MRSA have been trickling in for years. A 2004 article in the Environment News Service reported a steady stream of MRSA cases developing in people after swimming at Florida beaches, but at the time, the Florida medical community denied that beaches could be the source of the infections. Lindsay Hodges, who was then a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health, had said, "MRSA is not a reportable infection in Florida. It is very unlikely MRSA infections are coming from sea water." And Howard Rodenburg, M.D., director of the Volusia County Department of Health, blamed dirty fishermen. "I don't perceive they are getting infections from contact with the ocean. I think the bacteria are colonizing within the human community on fishing boats," he said, "Fishermen in general have poor hygiene in a close-quartered environment."

But the current research shows that being hygiene-challenged has little to do with the MRSA threat at beaches. Dr. Alan Tice, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of Hawaii, reports that, "We have found in Hawaii as many as 100 MRSA colonies per liter of sea water. We think it is human activity related. When people are on the beach, rates rise in the daytime and are lower at night."

The best protection against beach-borne MRSA, then, seems to be to avoid swimming at crowded beaches when you have open cuts or when your immune system is weakened. Also, the researchers suggest washing thoroughly with soap and water both before going to the beach -- to avoid passing along any microbes living on you -- and after swimming, to shed any bacteria clinging to you. (Apparently, they haven't seen the recent studies indicating that washing doesn't necessarily reduce the number of germs on the skin.) As I've written before--given the fact that we share germs virtually every time we go out in public, you would be wise to keep your immunity levels high by taking an immunity-boosting formula...and if you do feel an infection coming on, take large doses of a natural antipathogenic cocktail.


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    Submitted by Dr Kadiyali M Srivatsa on
    March 8, 2009 - 6:12am

    This is not only beach, its all over and every where. Now we don't have one but ten bugs to deal with. Since CA-MRSA report appeared in CNN.
    We know way and how this happened but are helpless as the politicians and the media still believe this is not a major problem. I can understand their concerns about finance, but what will all the money be worth, if we are all falling ill?
    Please check out my website and leave your comments.

    Submitted by Erin on
    March 27, 2009 - 12:58pm

    This is scary! MSRA is not something that I want to ahve a 37% chance to contract considering that it's so resistant to treatment. It's dangerous for us, and especially our children, who are more susceptible, to have such infected beaches. I live in Florida, dually in Melbourne and Tampa, both close to the beach, and I absolutely love it. I know that places like ponds and lakes at parks have water that hardly circulates and that also heats up quickly in the summer, making it a breeding ground for bacteria. I would have never thought that beaches were just as dangerous, though.

    Submitted by maynard.cox. on
    March 29, 2009 - 11:17pm

    Remember the parasites from NUTRIA ( the large water rat from South America)that have turned up in the water traps of the golf courses around FL. When the water temp gets up
    arouind 65/80 % the eggs hatch out as Micorfilairia. When a human get's in the water they attach to the hair on feet, arms & hands causing intense burning. This known as NUTRIA ITCH not a bit fun. A solution of Ammonia, Baking Soda and meat tenderizer will wash this clean.

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