TV personality causes mild panic over bacterial contamination in Florida beach waters.
GULF SHORES, AL– Reports of bacterial contamination in the water off the beaches in northwest Florida caused a mini-panic Wednesday, but officials in the area say there is little danger to swimmers.
News of the Atlanta TV report of the National Weather Service (NWS) closing beaches along the Florida Panhandle due to “flesh-eating bacteria” made the rounds of social media for quite a while before the issue could be straightened out. The station later retracted the report and the weather forecaster apologized on social media for the confusion.
First of all, contrary to the report from the station, the NWS doesn’t close beaches, and secondly, the bacteria that was found was fecal indicator bacteria, not the flesh-eating type. Although that sounds bad enough, it it common to find elevated levels in the gulf, particularly after a heavy rain.
According to the Florida Department of Public Health’s website, “All Florida Panhandle beaches water quality are satisfactory at present for fecal indicator bacteria, except six in Okaloosa County and two in Walton County which have “no swim” (advisories). Okaloosa’s are: Garniers Park, Poquito Park, Rocky Bayou State Park, East Pass, Celement E. Taylor Park, Henderson Beach. Walton’s are: County Park (Miramar) Beach and Blue Mountain Beach.”
The Oklaoosa County Department of Public Health said it had not issued any advisories against swimming in that area, but they did issue a health warning because of the elevated levels of enterococci bacteria, which is normally found in the intestines of humans and animals.
The departments advisory continued, the bacteria “may cause human disease, infections, or rashes, but for the vast majority of people, the risk of serious illness is minimal. An otherwise healthy person may have no problems with contact with the water of a beach that is under advisory. Some may experience a minor inflammation of a cut, a mild sore throat or mild diarrhea after exposure to water from a beach under a health advisory. The greatest risk is for very young children, the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems since their ability to fight off infection is limited by age or disease. It is important to understand that a “health advisory” is not the same as a “no swim advisory.”
Thus far, no advisories have been issued along the coast of Alabama.