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coronavirus - beaches closed

coronavirus -  beaches closed

    Does the virus spread through recreational waterways?
    The virus has been shown to remain viable and infectious, at least temporarily, in natural freshwater environments including lakes and streams. While dilution is suspected to keep the risk low, high concentrations of the viable COVID-19 virus could put freshwater recreation users at risk. There was no information shared on the ability of the COVID-19 virus to remain viable in saltwater, so it’s unclear if swimming at saltwater beaches elevates the risk of contracting COVID-19. However, communal spread is a serious issue so spending time at popular beaches, if in close contact to other beachgoers, will increase your risk.

    How could the virus even get into recreational waterways?
    Like many harmful viruses and pathogens, the main exposure risk to the water recreation community is from sewage pollution. The release of raw or undertreated sewage into our surface waterways can cause diseases to spread through the “fecal-oral transmission route.” In other words, when we recreate at the beach during a sewage spill or release of undertreated wastewater, we risk ingesting fecal-borne pathogens that can cause symptoms like stomach upset; ear, eyes, nose and throat infections; as well as more severe infections like E. Coli, MRSA, giardia, hepatitis, and worse. 
    At this point, the research community does not know if people can contract the COVID-19 virus from exposure to feces in recreational waters but the overall consensus is that it might be possible. The RNA of the virus was found in stool samples of infected patients, but we do not know if the virus remains infectious after passing through the human digestive system. In order to be infectious, the virus needs both intact RNA and an intact outer envelope- which has not yet been observed by scientists in viruses obtained from stool samples. For this reason, and the fact that other coronaviruses are susceptible to UV radiation and unable to persist over long periods of time in waterways, researchers stated that “the risk of capturing COVID-19 from feces seems low,” but additional research is needed to confirm.  
    Due to the current uncertainty, areas affected by sewage spills, leaks or overflows, or have high numbers of septic tanks, cesspools or homeless populations, could have increased risk for potential transmission of the virus in affected waterways. Local health authorities post warnings to protect public health from exposure to many different harmful pathogens in sewage that can make you sick. Surfrider’s Clean Water initiative strives to protect clean water and to eliminate these sources of pollution that can put public health at risk. Note that cities are already starting to close beaches to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so please follow city, state and federal recommendations and restrictions. And as always, Surfrider urges you to check your local beach water quality before heading to the beach, as high bacteria is an indication of raw or undertreated sewage in the water.
    Do sewage treatment practices remove or disinfect the virus? 
    Typical treatments that include sterilization with chlorine and other disinfectants are highly effective at eradicating the virus. However, if you are in a place that uses only primary treatment at your sewage treatment plant, it could be possible that the viable virus might be discharged with effluent into waterways through offshore outfalls or groundwater injection wells. Please note that there are also concerns about biosolids, which are waste solids from treatment plants used as fertilizer, being able to accumulate viruses and other pathogens. Additional research is needed to confirm if current treatment methods for biosolids are able to destroy the virus.
    What are best practices to stay safe? 
    The CDC keeps an updated list of best practices to stay safe. Researchers stressed the fact that community mitigation is key and everyone has a role to play to protect themselves and others. Some key steps include:
    ·       Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds frequently and thoroughly
    ·       If soap and water are not available, use at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer
    ·       Do not touch your face (especially eyes, nose or mouth) with unwashed hands
    ·       Clean frequently touched surfaces often with home cleaning products and then follow with disinfectants that contain either adequate concentrations of bleach or are minimum 70% alcohol-based. Note that you can easily make your own disinfectant for surface cleaning by mixing 4 tsp bleach per 1 quart of water. 
    ·       Stay home if you are sick
    ·       Practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings (greater than 10 people, but this recommendation is changing rapidly as state and cities close down restaurants, bars and theaters to mitigate community exposure)

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