THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE WATER.......................

Photo Darlene Sprague
Darlene Sprague Photo
One day while waiting in the doctors office I picked up a book and noticed a very interesting article about swimmers itch.  This is what I read in the article. 
Parasites live in hosts.  Adult worms live in the small blood vessels surrounding the intestines of a host, usually  ducks or geese.

Biologist have studies the cause of swimers itch and have identified at least a dozen worms that cause swimmers itch in our waters.  Mature parasites mate and lay eggs.  The eggs find their way into the digestive tract of the bird via the feces.  Infected birds can pass hundreds of eggs with defecation. 

In warm water and sun light,  small larva will hatch from each egg within minutes and swim in search of an host,  usually a species of snail.  Upon penetratration of the snail the larva begins a 30 day transformation into whats called a sporocyst.  The sporocyst then becomes an itch machine.  Producing up to 4,000 new larvae every day for the rest of summer.  The larvae's intended target is another duck or goose, where it can begin its cycle all over again.

Human and other living things,  are also vunerable and can easily become a host.  Creating what is known as swimmers itch.  Swimmers itch can make ones life miserable.
There is no easy way to know if the parasites are cycling in your swimming waters.  If there is a lot of ducks and geese around your swimming area, the possibility is high.  The itch causing cercariae are transparent and only about 1/32 inch long, and undetectable to the naked eye.

The larvae can live and penetrate the skin for up to 24 hours, then die and cause intense itching..  The release of cercariae for most species of these parasites comes in the morning soon after the sun hits the water. Changes in temperatures can trigger a greater release of cercariae from the snails. 

Shallow water also appears to put the swimmer at greater risk for an encounter, as does late mornings to early afternon bathing.  

                                          So what do you do ?

If  you think the water has the parasites and your skin is sensitive to them, stay out of the warm water.

 Most importantly , do not feed water fowl. 

Keep water fowl from roosting on your beach, raft or dock. 

When swimming wear a wet suit or some other protective covering on your skin. 

Towel off immediately after leaving the water.

Take a warm soapy shower and scrub your skin.

Wash your swimsuit after each swim and line dry.

Swim late in the day and in deeper,  cooler water

If you get swimmers itch, there is no effective preventative application of any sort to provide relief.   Over the counter antihistamines or mild corticosteroid creams could help but not always effective.The itch will  go away after a few days, but meanwhile  expect a few sleepless nights and miserable itcy days as it will be  very uncomfortable.

Beaver Fever also known as Giardia Lamblia is an intestinal parasite.  A parasite is an organism that lives on or inside another organism called the host.  Typically found in lakes, streams or ponds that have been contaminated by humans, muskrat,  beaver feces, or other animals.

It is one of the most common human parasitic infections.  Numbers of infections are seen in late summer months.  Some healthy people do not get sick from beaver fever, however, they can still pass the infection on to others.
And it can be contagious.

Children , seniors and folks with long term illnesses may be more prone to contracting the illness as the risk of transmission is higher.

The parasite that causes giardia lives in the intestines of infected humans and animals.  It enters the soil, water, food, or other surfaces .  The most frequent method of infection is by drinking contaminated water.  People may also become infected through hand to mouth transmission.  This involes eating contaminated food or touching contaminated surfaces and unknowingly drinking and swallowing the parasite. 

The  parasites produce cysts, which are swallowed.  The cyst then reproduce in the intestines causing the signs and symptoms of giardia.  The parasite then forms new cysts that are passed in the stool, continuing the life cycle of the parasite.  Ingestion of as little as 10 cysts is enough to cause illiness. 

Signs and symptoms of beaver fever usually occur withing 7 to 14 days of exposure to the parasite,
although symptoms may appear as early as 3 days or as late as 25 days.  They frequently include diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas, nausea, vomiting, bloating, weight loss and weakness.  Some people may experience fever, rash, and joint pain , but that is less common.   The symptoms usually last about 2 weeks.  or up to 6 weeks.  Individual who have other illnesses may experience longer lasting symptoms.  

If these symptoms occur, a doctor should be consulted immediately for treatment. There is an antibiotic that can be taken to shorten the duration of the infection and kill the parasite. 

Do not drink water from lakes or streams.  And do not brush your teeth or wash foods in untreated water.  Any water used for washing dishes should be boiled for 4-5 minutes.  

Teach children and inform adults  who swim and play in the water , not to swallow
the water....  There is no reason to avoid the water , if proper precautionary measures and care is taken.
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Darlene Sprague