Lakes Called Safe despite Swimmers' Itch Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Kurt Gessler Daily Herald Staff Writer

Health department officials have declared two McHenry County lakes safe for swimming despite reports earlier this week of swimmers contracting often- painful rashes after a quick dip at a public beach.

While there is no way to definitively diagnose the cause, Patrick McNulty, interim public health administrator, said the department suspects the minor irritations to be schistosome dermatitis, commonly known as swimmers' itch.

Although scattered cases of swimmers' itch have been reported at Peterson Park, on the east end of McCullom Lake in McHenry, and at the main beach on Crystal Lake for last three years, recent water tests indicate the water is "bacteriologically safe," McNulty said.

"The water quality is fine. There are no serious problems," he said.

Swimmers' itch is an allergic reaction caused by a usually innocuous organism, cercaria.

Microscopic larvae produced from the eggs of parasites, cercariae can cause itching and raised spots that resemble insect bites when they come into contact with skin. This rash may persist for up to three or four days, but it is not contagious and should not pose any serious health problems unless the skin is broken, causing an infection, McNulty said. …