RivCo officials: Santa Ana River, natural water sources can present health concerns

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Doctor with stethoscope
Valley News - Health

RIVERSIDE – Riverside County health officials are advising residents to beware the potential health risks of swimming in or ingesting water from natural water sources such as rivers and lakes.

The advisory comes in response to the recent closure of the Santa Ana riverbed by the city of Jurupa Valley as Riverside County health officials investigated a report of two Orange County residents with Shigella bacteria who became ill. Shigella bacteria cause intestinal illness which can sometimes be severe. Both patients reported they had recently visited the Santa Ana River, but officials have not been able to determine that the river water was the source of the illnesses.

According to Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county of Riverside’s public health officer, the public should be aware that swimming in or swallowing water from waterways can pose significant health risks.

“While we have no evidence of current or ongoing health issues from the river, people should understand that river water is changing and unpredictable, and people’s safety should be paramount,” Kaiser said. “Enjoy the river from the shore.”

Rivers and streams are not tested for public health purposes, as they are naturally flowing bodies of water. Testing of river water provides only a brief snapshot in time and the results only show the water quality at the time the samples were taken. River bacteria concentrations, an indicator of potential contamination, rise during the warm summer months.  Samples taken Aug. 14, near the Van Buren Boulevard bridge and Etiwanda Avenue were consistent with historical river trends.

Efforts are underway by Riverside County Parks, in coordination with other jurisdictions along the river, to post signage near known access points to the riverbed alerting visitors to the safety warnings. Individuals who think they may have fallen ill after contact with river or lake water are advised to consult their primary care provider.

Submitted by Riverside County.