Public Health England is warning people taking part in open water swimming events to take precautions and practise good hygiene after it confirmed 4 cases of a dangerous bacterial infection at a weekend triathlon.
PHE says it’s found 2 confirmed and 1 possible case of leptospirosis associated with a weekend of triathlon events which took place at the Avon Tyrrell Outdoor Activity Centre, in the New Forest, Hampshire between 30 May and 2 June 2014. There were also 2 possible cases in non-UK residents, one of which has been confirmed.
The 167 participants who took part in the triathlon event were from around the UK, Europe, India and the USA. All the swimming events used the same lake and all participants have been informed of the recent illnesses by an email from the event organiser, Enduroman.
Dr Hilary Kirkbride, consultant epidemiologist at PHE, said:
“Although we are not expecting to see any new cases associated with these events, we advise people who took part in the swimming events and have been feeling unwell or develop symptoms to visit their GP. Early signs of leptospirosis include flu-like symptoms, vomiting, high temperature, headaches and muscle pains. The infection can be treated with antibiotics and most people will make a full recovery. In some cases leptospirosis can be a serious illness and patients may require admission to hospital for treatment.“
The case highlights a growing concern for PHE as open water swimming is growing in popularity in the UK leading to outbreaks of gastrointestinal infections (diarrhoea and/or vomiting) associated with mass participation events, as well as cases of respiratory, skin, ear and eye infections.
There is also a risk of more severe infections caused by organisms such as E. coli O157 which may cause severe gastrointestinal illness as well as leptospirosis, which can cause liver and kidney problems.
Practical measures swimmers can take include:
- Minimising the swallowing of water
- Showering soon after swimming
- Washing hands before eating.