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Bacteria prompting no-swim advisories likely from multiple sources

When bacteria levels reach unsafe levels, beach advisories go up. But that bacteria can be indicative of several situations.

No-swim advisories have popped up at several Sarasota and Manatee county locations this summer, strongly advising beachgoers to stay out of the water while stopping short of actually closing the shorelines.

Typically prompted by routine weekly tests that yield results of higher-than-acceptable concentrations of enterococcus bacteria, the advisories are often rescinded days later after follow-up testing shows levels had returned to normal.

The stakes are high when no-swim advisories are posted, and they are not posted lightly, health officials say, adding the out-of-bounds levels of the bacteria can be indicative of several conditions ranging from routine to serious. Health officials also stress that concentrations of enterococcus bacteria are not related to red-tide outbreaks.

Still, the microscopic organisms can lead to health problems.

“When these bacteria are found at high levels in recreational waters, there is a risk that some people may become ill,” Sarasota County Health and Human Services spokesperson Steve Huard wrote in an email.

Enterococcus occurs naturally in the intestine but can cause inflammation and infection if introduced elsewhere in the body.