RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Waterborne illnesses can be found all year round, but this summer, health experts at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) are increasing awareness with more and more people out in the water.
Waterborne illnesses are diseases that occur through exposure to water, whether it be consuming water or water entering the nose.
Dr. Melissa Jamerson, chair and associate professor in the Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences within the College of Health Professions at VCU, says some waterborne illnesses to be wary of are Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and Naegleria fowleri.
Cryptosporidium is a parasitic infection that can be contracted while consuming water while Naegleria Fowleri occurs when water goes up the nasal cavity. Giardia microorganisms can be found in warm fresh water.
Dr. Jamerson says one can experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea with Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
“With Naegleria fowleri, we start to see symptoms such as headaches, sensitivity to light, fever, confusion,” said Dr. Jamerson.
Because these diseases have symptoms that are common with other illnesses, Jamerson says they may be difficult to detect and report.
In 2011, a 9-year-old boy passed away after contracting Naegleria fowleri. Jamerson says he contracted the infection from the James River.
“I would say wear nose plugs, keep your head above water,” she said, “Try not to do activities that push water up the nasal cavity so that you can do your best to prevent that type of infection.”
Jamerson adds it’s best to ensure chlorine levels in pools are where they should be to prevent the contraction of these illnesses as well.