The coastal waters around Rio de Janeiro, where various Olympic water competitions will rapidly happen, are reportedly teeming with harmful viruses and bacteria. Just what exactly illnesses might persons catch if indeed they swallow a few of the water?
If the water has been contaminated with raw sewage, as has been reported, then a number of common pathogens could be lurking there and make people ill, experts say.
“There are many types of microbes in raw sewage that have the potential to cause human disease,” said Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. [10 Ways the Beach Can Kill You]
A study of Rio’s beaches commissioned by the Associated Press found much higher levels of viruses and markers for bacterial contamination in some cases than would be considered safe in the United States.
The biggest concern for athletes, as well as beachgoers in general, will be the potential for infection with viruses, said Dr. Alisa Muñiz Crim, a gastroenterologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. Although bacteria such as E. coli are located in sewage and may make persons sick, bacteria have a tendency to breakdown in salt water, thus there’s a lower threat of bacterial attacks, Muñiz Crim said.
On the other hand, “Viral organisms can persist in the salt water and the sand for times, weeks and months,” Muñiz Crim told Live Science.
The following pathogens could possibly be expected in water if it’s reasonably contaminated with sewage:
Adenoviruses: Although most widely known for creating respiratory illnesses, lots of types of adenoviruses are actually waterborne and may cause gastroenteritis, or perhaps inflammation of the abdomen and intestine, Morse said.
Norovirus: Most widely known for creating outbreaks on cruise lines, viruses in this relatives are extremely common, and trigger diarrhea and vomiting.
Rotavirus: This virus could cause serious, watery diarrhea, along with fever and vomiting. It’s a “extremely hardy virus” that’s a common reason behind diarrhea in infants, Morse said.
Hepatitis A: This is one of the most common types of waterborne viruses found in human feces worldwide, Morse said. It causes a liver infection. Some people infected with hepatitis A don’t have symptoms, but the virus can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, dark-colored urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes).
Astrovirus: This virus isn’t as common as norovirus or rotavirus, but it does have the potential to cause large outbreaks in humans, according to a 2012 review paper published in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics. It causes acute diarrhea, most commonly in children under time 2.
Vibrio infections: These attacks are due to bacteria that stay in warm coastal waters, such as for example Vibrio parahaemolyticus. They trigger diarrhea, vomiting and belly pain for eight days, and may contaminate seafood, such as for example raw or undercooked shellfish, based on the U.S. Department of Overall health & Human Services.
Cryptosporidium: This parasite triggers watery diarrhea. People who have weakened immune devices, such as people that have HIV/AIDS, are particularly vunerable to a serious disease with this parasite.
But it’s not merely ocean swimmers, sailors and rowers who are at risk of infection with these illnesses; people also could become infected if they consume drinking water that wasn’t purified, Morse said. This could be expected in a large city like Rio, where there are great disparities in wealth, he said. “The number of people may exceed the infrastructure for things like sewage treatment and water treatment,” Morse said.
In addition, some people who fall ill may not only experience an acute illness during the Olympics but also could be at risk of developing a long-term condition. It’s been theorized that, in some cases, infections may disturb the all natural communities of bacterias that stay in the man gut – referred to as the microbiome – and that this disturbance, in turn, could later result in an autoimmune disease, such as for example inflammatory bowel disease, in persons who happen to be predisposed to the problem, Muñiz Crim said.
“There’s a whole lot of suggestion our microbiome in our digestive tract controls probable risk” for the creation of many disorders, Muñiz Crim said.
Even now, the percentage of swimmers and sportsmen who’ll likely catch contamination is small – significantly less than ten percent, and probably nearer to 2 to 5 percent, Muñiz Crim said. That’s because many factors affect whether people get badly infected – from the quantity of normal water they swallow, to the concentration of contaminants (which varies depending on the weather and the tide), to their own immune system, she said.
It’s also important to note that these problems are not unique to Rio – about 30 percent of travelers to any developing country will contract a gastrointestinal illness, Morse said. Still, in Rio, “it might be a little simpler to get [sick] from the water than in some other places,” he said.
Although many bacterial infections can be prevented by taking antibiotics, presently there are fewer methods to prevent viral infections, Muñiz Crim noted. But you will find a vaccine designed for hepatitis A, which travelers to Brazil should get.
At this point, persons who intend to enter Rio’s waters must do everything they may to make certain they have the appropriate vaccines and follow the recommended safe practices rules for the Rio Olympics (from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization), Muñiz Crim said.
“And only don’t swallow the normal water,” she said.