Fecal bacteria prompts warning

The Oregon Public Health Department issued a public advisory Monday warning people about higher than normal levels of fecal bacteria found in ocean water at Harris Beach State Park.

Increased pathogen and fecal bacteria levels in ocean waters can come from shore and inland sources such as storm water runoff and animal waste from birds such as sea gulls and even pets, the agency said.

Water samples indicate higher-than-normal levels of fecal bacteria, which can result in diarrhea, stomach cramps, skin rashes and other illnesses. Direct contact with the water should be avoided until the advisory is lifted, especially for children and the elderly, who may be more vulnerable to waterborne bacteria.

While this advisory is in effect at Harris Beach, visitors should avoid wading in nearby creeks or in discolored water, and stay clear of water runoff flowing into the ocean. Even if there is no advisory in effect, officials recommend avoiding swimming in the ocean for 48 hours after a rainstorm.

Although state officials discourage water contact, they continue to encourage other recreational activities such as walking, playing on the beach, flying kites, and picnicking on these beaches because they pose no health risk even during an advisory. Neighboring beaches are not affected by this advisory.