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Environmental Health - Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
Ocean Water & Fishermen - Click on each link below for more information
The ocean is not a sterile environment. It is an ecosystem of living organisms, doing what living organisms do, including relieving themselves. If you walk outside and pick up a handful of dirt, bacteria will be present; including some that may be harmful. The ocean similarly has bacteria in it. The Volusia County Health Department tests the beach water each week to ensure that bacteria levels from the intestinal tracts of warm-blooded animals, including humans, are below the levels associated with disease transmission. When the health department testing finds the bacteria levels in the good range, it doesn’t mean that bacteria are non-existent. It means that the bacterial levels are below the level that should cause disease.
There are several reasons the health department is not testing for ocean staphylococcus:
As long as residents heed health department advisories, don’t swim with open sores or wounds, and follow proper personal hygiene, swimming in the ocean should not be any higher risk than being on land (from a bacteriological standpoint).
There are few regulations designed to prevent disease in fishermen. The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the United States Coast Guard have some standard language relating to reporting issues (46CFR28.165 and 46USC10603), but protecting yourself from disease is your responsibility. Historically, the issues of hygiene take a back seat to the issues of safety. Seamen have so many potential threats to their safety; sanitation and hygiene have remained below your radar so to speak.
In 1999 the International Labour Organization (ILO) collected and analyzed views and information from the international maritime medical community concerning health and safety issues in the fishing sector. “The results indicated that the most frequent work-related injuries in fishermen were: superficial injuries, effects of weather and exposure, injuries to the musculoskeletal system, contusions and crushing injuries, and near drowning. Drowning was a leading cause of death among fishermen.”
The ILO survey further stated “Some diseases are specific to fishermen, such as salt-water boils, allergic reactions to cuttlefish and weeds, fish erysipeloid, acute tenosynovitis of the wrist, conjunctivitis and poisonous fish stings of certain fish in the warm waters of the tropics and subtropics.”
With so much potential for cuts and wounds to the skin, first aid and personal hygiene are of utmost importance. While cuts and wounds may be common, infections from them are preventable. See the section covering Treatment.
Page last updated: 06/25/13