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Aquatic Nuisance Diseases

With the onset of summer, many people begin to spend leisure time swimming and wading in local lakes.  While most natural waters are safe for recreational use, people must be aware of common aquatic nuisance diseases such as swimmer’s itch.


Swimmer's Itch

Swimmer's itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, appears as a  skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to specific parasites found in certain aquatic birds, mammals and snails.

Anyone who swims or wades in natural water may be at risk. Swimmer’s itch is not contagious.

To reduce the likelihood of developing swimmer's itch:

  • Do not swim in areas where swimmer's itch is a known problem or where signs have been posted warning of unsafe water.
  • Do not swim near or wade in marshy areas where snails are commonly found.
  • Towel dry or shower immediately after leaving the water.
  • Do not attract birds (e.g., by feeding them) to areas where people are swimming.

Within minutes to days after swimming in contaminated water, skin may be tingle, burn, and itch. Most cases do not require medical attention.