Millions of Americans will flock to the nation’s beaches this 4th of July holiday weekend. But health officials in five states want the public to know that some waters showed elevated bacteria levels in recent testing.
A total of 37 beaches across Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi have issued the swimming health advisories ahead of Independence Day, according to The Weather Channel. Texas has the most affected beaches with 15, while Louisiana has 12, Florida has eight, and Mississippi and Alabama each have one.
Officials stressed that the advisories aren’t the same as beach closures or warnings to avoid the water, but are rather meant to provide the public with as much information as possible. The bacteria in question is Enterococcus and is usually found in fecal matter. High levels of the microorganism could make some swimmers sick, especially if they have a cut and come into contact with the bacteria.
“The greatest risk is for very young children, the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems since their ability to fight off infection is limited by age or disease,” said the Department of Public Health in Okaloosa County, Fla.
Officials also noted that, contrary to an erroneous report that was picked up by other outlets, beaches in the Florida panhandle have not been shown to have the “flesh-eating bacteria” Vibrio bacteria.