Last week we showed pictures of what the waters look like in Rio as the Summer Olympics gets ready to start. Dead human bodies, old sofas, plastic bottles, garbage, dead animals, machine parts, and so much more are currently found in the water ways where athletes will compete this week.
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.
According to CBS NEWS, the biggest concern for athletes will be the potential for infection with viruses.
The following pathogens could be expected in water if it’s fairly contaminated with sewage:
- Adenoviruses: Although best known for causing respiratory illnesses, some types of adenoviruses are waterborne and can cause gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestine, Morse said.
- Norovirus: Best known for causing outbreaks on cruise ships, viruses in this family are very common, and cause diarrhea and vomiting.
- Rotavirus: This virus can cause severe, watery diarrhea, along with fever and vomiting. It’s a “very hardy virus” that’s a common cause of 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 a2012 review paper published in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics. It causes acute diarrhea, most commonly in children under age 2.
- Vibrio infections: These infections are caused by bacteria that live in warm coastal waters, such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus. They cause diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain for up to eight days, and can contaminate seafood, such as raw or undercooked shellfish, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
- Cryptosporidium: This parasite causes watery diarrhea. People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, are particularly susceptible to a serious infection with this parasite.
But it’s not just 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 isn’t purified, Morse said. This could be expected in a large city like Rio, where there are great disparities in wealth, he said.
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