Millions of people fall ill each year when they swim in water contaminated by fecal bacteria. The primary sources of fecal contamination include urban runoff, sewage leaks and overflows and industrial-scale livestock operations, according to a new report.

A recent Environment America Research and Policy Center report swimmers suffer from an estimated 57 million cases of recreational waterborne illness each year.

The center’s analysis looked at 2,627 beaches across the U.S. According to the study, more than half of all those tested were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one day 2018. Thirteen percent of tested sites posted elevated bacteria counts for at least 25 days.

“What we found is that across the country, more than half of the beach sites that were tested last year for fecal bacteria, i.e. some indicator of poop, exceeded EPA’s precautionary level, indicating that people could be at risk of getting sick from swimming,” John Rumpler, the clean water program director for Environment America, said.

Rumpler also told USA Today: “It’s hard to believe that, 47 years after we passed the Clean Water Act, that we are still concerned with poop in the water when people want to go swimming.”

According to the report, swimmers suffer from an estimated 57 million cases of recreational waterborne illness each year including gastrointestinal issues as well as respiratory disease, ear and eye infections, and skin rash.

According to the N.H. Department of Environmental Services’ website, fecal bacteria can also be caused by birds frequently returning to an area looking for a food source, typically because they have been fed by humans. The website discourages beach-goers from feeding birds or other wildlife they may encounter.

In fact, several area beaches open to public swimming were closed recently because elevated levels of bacteria were detected in the water.

Swanzey Lake, Otter Brook Lake Beach in Keene, the beach at Surry Mountain Lake and Picnic Beach in Greenfield State Park were among them. In each case, advisories were quickly lifted.

CDC: ‘Crypto’ parasite

can live for days in pools

Federal public health officials are urging people to take precautions to protect themselves against a microscopic parasite that can live for days in swimming pools and water playgrounds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report last week about the increased number of outbreaks caused by the fecal parasite, Cryptosporidium, more commonly known as “Crypto.”

The parasite, a common cause of water-related disease outbreaks across the United States, causes cryptosporidiosis, a disease characterized by nausea, vomiting and “watery diarrhea” that can last for weeks, according to the CDC. Although most cases do not require medical treatment, public health experts warn the parasite may pose a greater risk to people who are especially young or old, or who have compromised immune systems and are at increased risk of “life-threatening malnutrition.”

The warning came from the CDC’s recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which highlighted a 13-percent increase in cryptosporidiosis outbreaks each year from 2009 to 2017.

Bobbi Pritt, a physician and co-director of Vector-Borne Diseases Lab Services at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said livestock can also be infected with the parasite, so people visiting zoos or county fairs should wash their hands thoroughly after handling animals.

Other precautions include keeping sick children with diarrhea away from the water, as well as from child-care facilities; washing hands with soap, not hand sanitizers; and removing shoes around livestock before entering your home, according to the CDC.