Health advice for swimmers as summer heats up

Amoeba warnings sign in Guilderton. File picture
Amoeba warnings sign in Guilderton. File picture

SWIMMERS are being urged to keep their heads above water at Moore River in Guilderton again this summer.

The Shire of Gingin issued health advice for amoebic meningitis on December 10, advising people who swim there recreationally to take precautions such as not jumping into the river to avoid the potentially fatal disease.

In a notice, it said regular tests in the river through the Health Department’s recreational water sampling program detected the micro-organism Thermophilic Naegleria that was tolerant to water temperatures up to 42°C.

The most severe type of that organism was Naegleria fowleri, which has not been detected but could cause the waterborne disease amoebic meningoencephalitis if contaminated water went up into the nose.

“This organism has not been identified in any recreational water bodies within the Shire of Gingin to date,” it advised.

“However, the Thermophilic Naegleria organism has been detected and is considered to be the pre-cursor to possible Naegleria fowleri.”

The Shire said infection could occur when people swam, dived or fell into warm, unchlorinated water containing Naegleria or when children played under sprinklers or with hoses using that water or when infected water was inhaled to cleanse the nasal passages.

“Infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time which results in higher water temperatures,” it said.

“You cannot get infected by swallowing water containing Naegleria.”

The Shire has issued similar advice and installed signs warning people of the potential risk in previous summers.

❗️UPDATE – FURTHER ADVICE FOR SWIMMERS AT MOORE RIVER Further to the original post below, the Shire would like to…

Posted by Shire of Gingin on Monday, 9 December 2019

The Health Department also reminded Western Australians to protect themselves and their families from the rare but potentially fatal infection amoebic meningitis as the weather warmed up .

Managing water scientist Richard Theobald said it was important people were aware of the risk so they could make sure that any water they or their children played in was properly treated and maintained.

“In addition to pools and spas, children often cool down in water from garden hoses or sprinklers, wading pools, and on regional properties, rivers, dams and lakes,” he said.

“As amoebae thrive in water temperatures between 28˚C and 40˚C, it should be assumed that any warm fresh water potentially contains the Naegleria fowleri amoeba.

“The infection can affect people at any age.

“Children and young adults, however, are usually more susceptible to the infection due to their recreational water use and activities.”

Although there has not been a case of amoebic meningitis in WA since the 1980s, Mr Theobald urged people not to become complacent about the infection.

“The Naegleria fowleri amoeba is naturally occurring in the environment and cannot be eradicated,” he said.

“This means that the risk of contracting this infection is always real and precautions must always be taken.

“Even with treatment amoebic meningitis is usually fatal – prevention is vital.”

Mr Theobald said precautions included never allowing water to go up the nose, never jumping or diving into water, and running water from hoses and sprinklers for a few minutes until cool before letting a child play with it, with supervision recommended.

He said people should also disinfect swimming pool water with and keep wading pools clean by emptying, scrubbing and allowing them to dry in the sun after each use.

Other precautions included staying out of dirty pools, waterholes, dams, swimming pools or spas, and swimming in sea water rather than fresh water.

Visit the HealthyWA website for more information on amoebic meningitis.