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    Health department warns of summertime dangers in the water

    9:42 PM, Jul 22, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK (KTHV) - A possible case of a rare swimming illness is now under investigation by the Arkansas State Health Department.

    It is still too early to tell, but state health officials said that they're looking into whether or not there's case of parasitic meningitis in our state.

    THV 11 News received an email from a viewer about this and looked into it. The Health Department can't say where this case may be or who may be involved yet, but officials will say that it's this time of year that we all need to be extra careful when heading out for a swim.

    M.J. Murphy took the family out to Willow Springs Lake in Little Rock on Monday.

    "Get the kids out, have a little fun, it's hot out, you know," Murphy said.

    It's an escape from the heat that, for Murphy's family, comes with a little safety prep for the kids.

    "Just sun tan lotion. That's it," Murphy said.

    But, that's not enough these days if you ask the Arkansas Department of Health. Officials there said summer time, in really any body of water, raises the risk of a bacteria or parasitic illness.

    "So it the water temperature is elevated, if the water levels have gone down, these are all factors that increase the growth of these organisms," said Dr. Gary Wheeler, with the Arkansas Department of Health.

    Dr. Gary Wheeler confirmed that the department is investigating a possible case of parasitic meningitis. That's extremely rare in Arkansas, and Wheeler said that there have been five cases over the past 40 years.

    He says symptoms include a change in the person's mental status, so they are not as lucid as they usually are, or they begin to have weakness. They're kind of out of it.

    E. coli is a more common bacterial illness that can pop up in the summertime, and symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting.

    "Not ingesting the water. That's really step number one, and if you can rinse off after you get out of the water that is important, too," Dr. Wheeler said.

    He added that you can also throw in some nose plugs or hold your nose when diving into the water. Parents, like Murphy, said he'll now look into all of this.

    "Never really thought about it," Murphy said. "I guess I'll start."

    Another thing to watch out for, especially in ponds and lakes, is slow moving water.

    As for the possible parasitic meningitis case, Dr. Wheeler said that it could take up to a week before we know anything official on it. Dr. Wheeler also said that they are serious cases and victims should get care immediately when symptoms arise.

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