With the heatwave continuing to grip Europe, many of us are heading to the beach to keep cool. However, potential beach goers on the Baltic Sea might want to reconsider their choices as the heat has prompted a surge in vibrio bacteria and a toxic algae bloom.

If you are concerned about the quality of water at places you plan to swim, you can use this handy interactive map from the European Environment Agency to help you. Zoom in to see more detail, including lakes, rivers and individual beaches. Local health authorities might also produce information on water safety. Finally, a quick Google before you go should reassure you that it is safe to get in the water.

Bacteria flourishing

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, in northeastern Germany, health officials have warned that vibrio bacteria is flourishing in the warmer waters and can pose a health threat to those with compromised immune systems.

Vibrio bacteria and vibriosis

There are about twelve types of vibrio bacteria that can cause people to become sick, with the sickness being known as vibriosis. The CDC reports that –

Vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year. People with vibriosis become infected by consuming raw or undercooked seafood or exposing a wound to seawater. Most infections occur from May through October when water temperatures are warmer. (Source)

Last week an elderly person died in Texas from a vibrio bacteria infection. It is thought they contracted it when bacteria entered cuts on their legs while they were wade fishing off a beach.

Vibriosis symptoms

The CDC lists the symptoms of vibriosis as

When ingested, Vibrio bacteria can cause watery diarrhea, often accompanied by abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills. Usually these symptoms occur within 24 hours of ingestion and last about 3 days. Severe illness is rare and typically occurs in people with a weakened immune system.

Vibrio bacteria can also cause a skin infection when an open wound is exposed to brackish or salt water. Brackish water is a mixture of fresh and sea water. It is often found where rivers meet the sea.

If you are exhibiting these symptoms, please seek medical assistance. If you believe you could have been exposed to the bacteria, mention this to the medical staff as soon as possible.

Toxic algae bloom

Officials have banned swimming on nearly 30 beaches in Gdansk following the outbreak of the blue-green bacteria, cyanobacteria.


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