Recreational Water Contact and Illness in Mission Bay, California

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Fecal indicator bacteria are routinely monitored at marine recreational bathing beaches to assess the public health risk of contracting swimming-related illness. There have been numerous epidemiology studies that demonstrated the relationship of indicator bacteria to health risk, but they have been mostly conducted on beaches impacted by point sources with known human fecal contributions. Few studies have examined this relationship at beaches where non-point sources are the dominant fecal input source.

Here, we present an epidemiology study conducted in Mission Bay, California, where nearly 20% of the historic routine bacterial samples failed water quality standards but the dominant fecal source appears to be non-human. The study focused on three primary questions: (1) Did water contact increase the risk of illness during the two weeks following exposure to water? (2) Among those individuals with water contact, were there associations between illness and measured levels of traditional indicators of water quality? and (3) Among those individuals with water contact, were there associations between illness and measured levels of non-traditional indicators of water quality?

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