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Health officials: Avoid contact with ocean water at Sunset Bay due to fecal bacteria level

Sunset Bay State Park - Oregon State Parks photo

COOS BAY, Ore. - Health officials warned beachgoers to avoid contact with ocean water at Sunset Bay State Park Beach after water samples found higher-than-normal levels of fecal bacteria.

"People should avoid direct contact with the water in this area until the advisory is lifted," the Oregon Health Authority said in a statement. "This applies especially to children and the elderly, who may be more vulnerable to waterborne bacteria."

The Oregon Health Authority said exposure to fecal bacteria can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses.

"While this advisory is in effect at Sunset Bay State Park Beach, visitors should avoid wading in nearby creeks, pools of water on the beach, or in discolored water, and stay clear of water runoff flowing into the ocean," the state said. "Even if there is no advisory in effect, officials recommend avoiding swimming in the ocean within 48 hours after a rainstorm."

Health officials said the inreased bacteria levels can "come from both shore and inland sources such as stormwater runoff, sewer overflows, failing septic systems, and animal waste from livestock, pets and wildlife."

They added that the bacteria doesn't pose a health risk for other activities on the beach, like flying kites, picnicking, playing on the beach, and walking.

"The status of water contact advisories at beaches is subject to change," the state noted. "For the most recent information on advisories, visit the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program website or call 971-673-0440, or 877-290-6767 (toll-free)."

The state used EPA grants to monitor popular Oregon beaches for elevated fecal bacteria.

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