Matthew was diabetic and really did not care well for himself. His wife was always worried about him and tried to get him on the right diet. She could control what he ate at home but not at his work. Seemingly he would eat whatever was there at the job site and his weight increased. He smoked some but not that much. He was told by his nurse practitioner that his glucose levels were high but he said he felt fine. His wife, Judy, decided to go to the beach with their two children and Matthew and they went to the Gulf Coast. The water was warm and the sand was hot. Matthew walked along the beach in the cool wet sand and would occasionally jump into the water. He was overweight and he did not tell anyone that his feet hurt sometimes for no apparent reason. When they returned from the beach, Matthew fell ill and ad nausea and diarrhea. He ran a temperature and felt miserable. He went to the ER where he was dehydrated and was admitted to the hospital. Despite intravenous antibiotics Matthew did not improve. He was diagnosed with a bacterial infection. The antibiotics given were delayed in the hospital and Matthew died of Sepsis- an infection in his bloodstream.
Recent studies have found that beach goers have up to a ten-fold risk of an infection in their intestinal tract if they go into the water or walk on the wet sand. Emerging in formation has shown that beaches with little or no wave activity have a higher risk of infection to humans than those with more wave activity. The risk for an infection increases from 6/1000 people to 120/1000 people for just a ten-minute exposure to wet sand or water. Longer exposure times increases the risk. These are large numbers, which means that perhaps it is really not the beach restaurants as much as the beach waters itself that makes so many people sick at the beach. It is all too common that many of us become ill after a beach visit.
So what is it in the wet sand or ocean that makes us ill? It is probable gull droppings and fecal droppings from other sources that diffuse into the water and wet sand. Sewage discharged directly into the ocean from rainwater and other sources also contaminate our coastline.
What to do? Walking in dry sand is o.k. but can be not—so wear sandals. Go into the ocean is unavoidable and why we often visit the beach in the first place. Perhaps we should take a shower in clean water after bathing in the ocean. Avoiding stagnant beaches with little waves and tide pools that don/t drain is another good idea. The risk of infection appears to be higher at the junction of dry and wet sand seems to be the highest risk. Further offshore seems to be less risky (e.g. in a boat).
Matthew might have survived if his diabetes was better controlled to start with. He was just trying to enjoy himself at the beach but did not know how high his risk was for his dip into the ocean.
- Beaches are an important source of intestinal infections.
- Wet sand and ocean dipping increases risk of infection 20X higher than dry sand.
- The beach restaurants may not be the largest source on infection at the beach.
Medical News Today: Article Date: Jan 2008