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As swimming pools, water parks and beaches begin to open, the Central Racine County Health Department is encouraging people to learn how to protect themselves from injury and illness.

Every year, thousands of Americans get sick with recreational water illnesses, which are caused by germs found in places where we swim. Illnesses can be caused by germs like Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, E. coli, and Shigella, and are spread by accidentally swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter. Health Officer, Margaret Gesner, says that “the most frequent sources of disease-causing microorganisms are from sewage overflows, polluted stormwater runoff, sewage treatment plant malfunctions, boating waste and malfunctioning septic systems.”

Every day, there are about 10 deaths from drowning across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drowning is preventable, although each year thousands die, and more are left with long-term consequences including memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state). To reduce the risk of drowning, the Central Racine County Health Department offers the following tips:

Prepare by making sure that:

  • Everyone knows how to swim
  • Older children and adults know CPR
  • Children are supervised by an adult

When in the water, keep swimmers safe by:

  • Using life jackets that fit for younger or weaker swimmers
  • Providing continuous, attentive supervision even if there is a lifeguard
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs when swimming or watching swimmers