From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Lake County beachgoers can access the latest information on Lake Michigan and inland lake beach advisories and swim bans.
Check the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center's website by visiting http://health.lakecountyil.gov/Population/LMU/Pages/Beach-Advisory.aspx.
"A beach may have a temporary swim ban due to high bacteria counts," said the health department's executive director, Tony Beltran. "High bacteria counts can be caused by stormwater runoff, sewage overflow, nearby septic failure and large quantities of droppings from geese or gulls. While beach closings in Lake County are a relatively infrequent occurrence, it is still best to check before you head to your favorite beach."
Throughout the summer, the health department samples 12 beaches along Lake Michigan four days per week. The web page is updated daily by 10 a.m. These beaches include:
• North Point Marina Beach, Winthrop Harbor;
• Illinois Beach State Park North Beach, Zion;
• Illinois Beach State Park South Beach, Zion;
• Illinois Beach State Park Resort Beach, Zion;
• Waukegan North Beach, Waukegan;
• Waukegan South Beach, Waukegan;
• Lake Bluff Dog Beach, Lake Bluff;
• Lake Bluff Sunrise Beach, Lake Bluff;
• Forest Park Beach, Lake Forest
•Moraine Dog Beach, Highland Park;
• Park Avenue Beach, Highland Park;
• Rosewood Beach, Highland Park.
The health department tests the water samples for E. coli bacteria, which are found in the intestines of almost all warm-blooded animals. While not all strains of E. coli are the same, certain strains can make humans sick if ingested in high enough concentrations. E. coli also serves as an indicator that other potentially harmful pathogens may be present.
If water samples come back high for E. coli (235 E. coli/100 mL), the beach manager is notified and a sign is posted indicating the swim ban.
Rainfall also washes pollutants toward the lake and can lead to elevated bacteria levels in the water. Therefore, the health department advises residents to avoid swimming after a large rain event.
Swimming-related illnesses are typically minor. The most common illness is gastroenteritis, which causes flu-like symptoms that typically develop one to two days after exposure.
Other minor illnesses include ear, eye, nose and throat infections. Skin parasites such as ringworm and schistosomiasis (swimmers itch) can be transmitted in areas of water degradation.
Although there are many serious illnesses transmitted through water, swimmers in the United States are rarely exposed to these diseases.
The health department also monitors licensed beaches on inland lakes, including the Chain O' Lakes. For more information on beach monitoring, call the health department's Environmental Services at (847) 377-8030.