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FDO Warns First-Years About Beach Bacteria

By Caroline L. Donchess, Crimson Staff Writer

Florida-bound students may return from their spring-break trips with an unpleasant and serious bacterial infection, according to a warning e-mail sent to all first-years by the Freshman Dean’s Office (FDO) this week.

Joel Richard, a staff assistant at the FDO, sent the warning to the first-year class list after he received it from an employee at University Health Services.

Richard said that the health warning is applicable to students who plan to travel to Florida at the end of the week and may cause some to reconsider their destination or to alter their itineraries.

The e-mail contained an Associated Press article describing outbreaks of fecal bacteria at beaches in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a popular destination for students on break.

“Because spring break is approaching, there are students who are planning to go someplace warm,” Richard said.

The Florida Health Department issued warnings for several beaches after routine tests detected contamination of fecal bacteria in the water.

Health officials announced that the outbreaks are due to contamination that could have been caused by sewage leaked from a passing ship.

The unsanitary conditions are dangerous to swimmers, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal diseases such as hepatitis A, shigellosis and cholera, according to the article.

Swimmers could emerge from the waves with symptoms such as severe diarrhea and intestinal pain, the article said.

Shaka J. Bahadu ’04 said that although he changed his travel plans before hearing of the warning, he said he is glad he is not going to be near Florida’s contaminated waters during break.

“If I were going, I definitely would not be going now,” Bahadu said.

Christopher W. Mackey ’06, who is travelling with the baseball team to Fort Lauderdale for spring training, was surprised when he received the e-mail from the FDO.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said, “but I’m a pool guy.”

Mackey said that the conditions would definitely deter him from venturing into the water, but he did not rule out kicking back on the beach with his teammates.

Helene T. Nguyen ’05 plans to “defrost” from the lingering winter weather in Cambridge on her upcoming vacation to Fort Lauderdale.

While she had not yet heard about the warnings, Nguyen says she does not plan to change her travel itinerary, but will remain on land throughout break.

“I have no intention of getting in the water at all,” Nguyen said. “I only want to get a tan.”

The FDO also sent a warning to the first-year class list about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

There have not been any cases of the disease in the United States, so the health warning was primarily directed toward students travelling internationally.

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