Most of us know not to go in the water right after a hurricane because it is polluted with many things that can make you sick or injure you.
Now, 15 days after Ian hit Southwest Florida, some people are returning to business as usual, even going for a swim at the beach.
A lot of things can still hurt you in the water, including debris that can cut you. There are bacteria and sewage that can make you sick and cause infections too.
For a lot of people, a beach is a happy place. It is why many move to Southwest Florida, but Collier County health officials say it isn’t where you should be right now.
“Hurricane Ian brought heavy wind, heavy rain and floodwaters. This floodwater brings in bacteria, sewage, trash and debris,” said Kristine Hollingsworth, the public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Collier County.
Hollingsworth said DOH staff performed water quality tests at some of the beaches, and some came back good, while others were poor.
“But these tests are only for a certain type of bacteria that causes gastric illnesses. This does not mean that if you enter the water and say you get cut with debris that is in the water, or debris that is on the beach, you may still contract severe bacterial illnesses,” said Hollingsworth.
The DOH put a precautionary swim advisory in place last week for all Collier County beaches. It will remain in effect until further notice.
“We do not have the authority to go out there and start ticketing or enforcing people to get out of the water we can let you know. However, if you choose to go in the water, this is a risk, and you may contract something that is severe,” Hollingsworth said.
Additionally, Hollingsworth says people should stay off the beaches as crews can’t do their job and clean them if you’re there.
Collier County DOH staff has not been able to post signage for the swim advisory at every beach in the county due to the number of beaches and some beaches being inaccessible.
They will continue to test the water and get signage up where and when they can.