Sarasota Co. Health Dept. issues ‘No Swim’ advisory for elevated bacteria levels at Bird Key Park

Sarasota County

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Health issued a “No Swim” advisory for Bird Key Park in Sarasota County after detecting elevated levels of bacteria in the water on Monday, Nov. 22.

FDOH said the Environmental Protection Agency has linked health and water quality as it concerns bacteria, so they’ve issued the “No Swim” advisory, though the beach at Bird Key Park itself is still open. Currently, wading, swimming and water recreation is not recommended.

Follow-up testing on the water was conducted, with results expected on Friday, Nov. 26. Enterococcus bacteria typically comes from natural and human-made sources, according to the health department. Those sources “include pet waste, livestock, birds, land-dwelling and marine wildlife, storm water runoff, and human sewage from failed septic systems and sewage spills.”

“When these bacteria are found at high levels in recreational waters, there is a risk that some people may become ill. People, especially those who are very young, elderly or who have a weak immune system that swallow water while swimming can get stomach or intestinal illnesses. If water contacts a cut or sore, people can get infections or rashes.” said DOH-Sarasota Environmental Administrator Tom Higginbotham.

Sarasota County’s rapid response team has reportedly determined the cause of the elevated bacteria levels as likely to be natural sources, having “observed a wrack line of decaying algae along the shoreline.” The wrack lines give food to shorebirds and other wildlife, and act as natural bacteria reservoirs, according to FDOH.

“Residents and visitors are urged not to wade, swim, or engage in water recreation at these beaches until the advisory is lifted,” FDOH said. “In addition, you should not eat shellfish such as crabs and shrimp collected in the immediate area of any beach with a no-swim advisory in place. Finfish caught live and healthy can be eaten if filleted.”

The health department also urges beachgoers not to allow their pets to roam the beaches and park areas, and to pick up pet waste. The department said children in diapers and people of all ages with diarrhea should not go in the water.

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