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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Health Dept. warns against E. coli bacteria in swimming pools

The island Health Department issued an alert to prevent situations conducive to bacterial infections in aquatic facilities noting that tend to be common in the summer season.


The island Department of Health alerted the public Tuesday after the Public Health Laboratory detected the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria and total coliforms in a recreational facility in San Juan.

The agency issued the alert to prevent situations in aquatic facilities noting that improperly treated swimming pools, common in the summer season, can pose a public health risk, especially for children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

“If illness or symptoms related to ingesting contaminated food or water are suspected, you should seek immediate medical attention,” a Health Department release said. “Likewise, it is important to take the necessary precautionary measures to prevent the spread and contagion of diseases.”

“Given this situation, we call on all visitors to water parks or public pools to be alert if they present some of these symptoms. You must be evaluated by a health provider and receive medical attention immediately,” said the island’s main epidemiology officer, Melissa Marzán, after calling on the operators or administrators of the facilities to maintain healthy cleanliness of the areas to guarantee the safety of all visitors.

E. coli is a microorganism commonly present in the intestines of humans and animals. It may be present in bodies of water or soil. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, some can cause serious illness, especially when ingested in large amounts.

Total coliforms, meanwhile, are a group of bacteria found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Total coliforms in water or food may indicate possible fecal contamination. They may be associated with foodborne illness and contaminated water.

Environmental health inspectors will continue to visit parks and pools to assess water quality. If they detect unsanitary conditions, they will order the temporary closure of the facility to carry out exhaustive cleaning and disinfection of the affected areas.

Marzán said the recommendations for avoiding infection or spread of bacteria associated with public pools are: do not swallow pool water, shower before entering a pool, give children breaks to go to the bathroom, and shower with soap and water once out of the pool.

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