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Stay out of the water at Picnic Island, health officials warn

TAMPA — Waters off of Picnic Island may contain bacteria that pose a health risk to bathers, a recent sample showed.

The Hillsborough County Health Department issued a warning Wednesday after they found an unsafe concentration of enterococci bacteria in the water, officials said.

If infected by the bacteria, people can suffer numerous conditions, including urinary tract infections, inner-abdominal infections, presence of bacteria in the blood and even meningitis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure also could lead to skin rashes and other infections, county health officials said.

Picnic Island is home to a dog beach. Owners should be wary of letting dogs go into the water, as it might not be good for their eyes, said Hillsborough County Health Department spokesman Steve Huard.

Finding risky levels of enterococci bacteria indicates the presence of fecal pollution that may come from storm water runoff, pets and wildlife or human sewage, health officials said.

Bathers have been asked to stay out of the water until health officials determine the bacteria level has decreased to a safe range. The Environmental Protection Agency's threshold for acceptable enterococci contamination is 104 colony-forming units per 100 millimeters of marine water.

Officials will re-sample the water Monday.

Picnic Island is one of nine sites where the health department conducts coastal water quality tests once every two weeks. This effort, known as the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program, has been ongoing since August 2000.

Contact Marissa Lang at mlang@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386.

Stay out of the water at Picnic Island, health officials warn 02/29/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 3:20pm]
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