Outdoor enthusiasts cautioned about health risks
August 2, 2005
Two recent cases of intestinal illness among outdoor enthusiasts have prompted the Allegheny County Health Department to caution campers, hikers and fisherman to be aware of their surroundings and practice good hygiene and sanitation to avoid exposure to disease.
Wildlife, including birds and mammals, may carry Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria and large mammals such as cattle and deer may carry E. coli. These bacteria are sometimes found in the stool of infected animals and may contaminate their wooded habitats or be washed into nearby rivers and streams.
A 29-year-old man who was diagnosed with Campylobacter may have been exposed after drinking from a stream while camping in an area with wild geese and ducks, and a 13-year-old boy diagnosed with E. coli who does a lot of trail biking and builds forts in wooded areas may have come in contact with wood contaminated with deer feces.
“While both individuals have completely recovered, their cases underscore the need for people to take appropriate health precautions while enjoying the outdoors,” said County Health Director Dr. Bruce W. Dixon.
Health officials recommend the following tips for outdoor enthusiasts:
• Be aware of your extended surroundings, not just the immediate area. Do not pitch camp downstream of waterfowl or livestock.
• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water (not stream water) before eating or handling food. Use a hand sanitizer, if handwashing facilities are not available.
• Do not eat fruits or vegetables found in the wild.
• Avoid drinking from streams or springs, which may be contaminated with runoff containing animal waste.
• Do not “cut” fishing lines with your teeth.