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For Release: May 15, 2012 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601
State Health Officials Urge Healthy and Safe Swimming Precautions
As Oklahomans gear up for a summer of fun activities on the water, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages everyone to observe healthy swimming behaviors as they increase their physical activity and enjoy their leisure time.
Healthy and safe swimming behaviors will prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs) and injuries. RWIs are caused by germs spread by swallowing or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. They can also be spread by breathing in mists or aerosols from contaminated water. RWIs can be prevented if the public will exercise appropriate swimming behaviors.
Healthy swimming behaviors include the following:
This summer, the lakes across Oklahoma will be filled with people having fun and staying cool. Lakes are not chlorinated and could pose a risk for an RWI including primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). PAM is a very rare, usually fatal disease caused by an ameba that grows in very warm surface waters such as lakes, ponds, and rivers. The warm water temperatures of the hot summer months allow the ameba to multiply. PAM may be prevented by avoiding diving or dunking your head in warm, shallow bodies of fresh water. In addition, holding the nose shut or using nose clips will prevent the water from entering the nose.
In addition, like last summer, blue-green algae continue to be present in some Oklahoma lakes. Blue-green algae can produce toxins that result in illness in humans and animals. Direct contact with water that has a blue-green algae bloom can result in a skin rash; eye, ear and throat irritation; asthma-like symptoms; and diarrhea, vomiting, or abdominal cramps. Individuals are advised to avoid swimming or other recreational water activities where mats of algae appear on the water.
Drowning is another important concern. On average, 20 people drown in Oklahoma lakes each year. To reduce the risk of drowning, make sure that:
Remember, there is no substitute for active and continuous adult supervision when children are in or around water, even if a lifeguard is in the area!
Swimming pools pose their own set of risks. From 2007-2010, 51 children less than 5 years of age in Oklahoma drowned. More than half of these drownings occurred in swimming pools. Simple safety measures can be taken to prevent childhood drowning:
The week before Memorial Day (May 21–27, 2012) is Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week. For more information regarding waterborne diseases and prevention, please visit:
For more information regarding water-related injuries and prevention, please visit:
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