What Are Water Pathogens?
Pathogens are disease-causing organisms including bacteria, viruses or protozoa that can cause illness.
Pathogen indicators (microbes that indicate the possible presence of pathogens) are present in the Minnehaha Creek at all times, but reach higher levels after a storm event. The creek is an urban stream that receives direct storm sewer runoff from streets, which may contain pathogens. That is why the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District advises people to avoid direct body contact with the Minnehaha Creek for a period of 3 days or 72 hours, after a rainfall ends. Body contact can include water in the mouth, eyes, ears or skin. The most common way to get sick is by getting water in the mouth during swimming, but it may be possible to get sick via exposure from canoeing, fishing or wading.
To reduce exposure to pathogens, you should never drink creek water and should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water following contact with creek water. Elderly people, children and people with compromised immune systems are at greater risk/more susceptible to pathogens in surface water than others Swimming and water-borne illnesses
According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) awareness of healthy swimming behaviors play an important role in stopping the spread of illnesses through recreational water. Review the Health Advisory: Health officials remind Minnesotans to practice healthy swimming behaviors this summer for more information
From 2000 to 2010, 23 swimming pool outbreaks and 15 beach outbreaks were identified in Minnesota, resulting in over 900 illnesses. The most common symptom of recreational water illness is diarrhea, which frequently is severe enough to result in hospitalization. Symptoms may not begin until a week or more after swimming.
Specific actions people can take to promote healthy swimming:
- Don't swim when you have diarrhea
- Don't swallow pool or lake water
- Practice good hygiene--shower with soap before swimming
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing diapers
- Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often
- Change diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside or beach side
To report a suspected waterborne iIllness:
Call the Foodborne and Waterborne Illness Hotline at 1-877-366-3455
For More Information:
- Learn more about healthy swimming from the Centers for Disease Control Healthy Swimming web page
- The MCWD commissioned a detailed report regarding the relationship between precipitation events and the concentration of pathogen indicators in the Minnehaha Creek and at Minneapolis beaches.
- Check My Lake
- View the Environmental Protection Agency’s website
- Learn more about the Water Health Connection