Officials compare bacteria levels in Gulf of Mexico to toilet water

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GALVESTON, Texas — Officials along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico are likening swimming at certain beaches to swimming in toilet water. Reports say levels of bacteria are so high that in some locations, swimming at the beach needs to be avoided altogether.

The Freeport Fire Department sent out a warning of medium bacteria levels at Bryan Beach, KTRK-TV  reports. Levels in Galveston, Texas are even higher.

The Galveston County Health District is now advising people to avoid swimming in certain areas. However, many families at the beaches are unaware of what the orange flags and signs are telling them. KTRK-TV reports that these signs denote an environmental hazard but do not specify what the threat is.

Seventeen of 52 locations in Galveston County Health District currently have orange flags up due to the finding of significantly high levels of bacteria.

Health officials measure bacteria in Colony Forming Units or CFU’s per 100ml  of water. Federal standards say that anything over 104 CFU’s is dangerous. In Galveston, bacteria levels climbed to more than 140 CFU’s.

The main concerns about swimming in waters with high levels of bacteria are infections such as gastroentertitis or infectious hepatitis.

Health officials report that high bacteria levels are common after high levels of rain water and that it may take several days for the levels to decrease.

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