Sand May Still Hold Harmful Bacteria

Dr. Vernon Ansdell
Dr. Vernon Ansdell

(KHNL)- Over the past week, high bacteria levels have kept many swimmers and surfers from the water, but the state Department of Health says most of those levels have come down to a level safe enough for swimming.

However, there is still reason for concern, and it lurks in the sand because bacteria can live in moist conditions. Beachgoer Jessie Neufeld worries, "The sand absorbing the toxins? That would be the place I think it (bacteria) would stick and I wouldn't want to be walking around the shore."

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii's Dr. Vernon Ansdell agrees with her. "After a sewage spill you worry about organisms that could be in fecal material."

Ansdell points to a photo of a leg, ravaged by the flesh eating "vibrio" bacteria you could probably get from sewage-contaminated waters. He ticks off a list of other dangers from polluted waters: "Hepatitis A, coliform, typhoid would be another rare possibility. It usually gives people stomach upsets. Occassionally it can contaminate wounds and cause wound infections. Oh, and keep out of fresh water, especially if you have abrasions and cuts. Leptospirosis is another risk."

But Andsell doesn't want to be an alarmist. He insists it's probably safe for you to walk barefoot on the beach, unless you have a cut.

On a related note, Sunday's Lanikai triathlon at Kailua Beach Park will become a biathlon. Officials says the cancelled the swim due to concerns over water quality. The event begins with the run at 6:15 a.m.