Sadly, many of the world's beaches and oceans aren't the cleanest places on earth. Surfers spend a lot of time in these environments and are often exposed to viruses, bacteria, and parasites, which can each cause a variety of diseases.
Surfers are affected by skin, eye, ear, foot and respiratory problems while enjoying riding waves. These can also be caused by pollution and water contamination.
There are nine main illnesses than may affect surfers and other recreational water users. Although you should not be alarmed by the list or the infections, it is important to carefully select the places where you surf. The sand and the water, for example, must be subject to regular analysis by the sanitary authorities in that particular region.
The nine diseases that can be contracted on the beach and in the ocean are:
Hepatitis: A problem for surfers due to the improper disposal of red waste, a hazardous waste (such as syringes)Enteric Bacteria: Transported by storm water and sewage run-off, the beaches become contaminated with fecal pollution, known as enterococci. The bacteria contaminate the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals.
Legionnaire's disease: A respiratory illness that lurks in warm waters; it's a form of pneumonia and is contracted when one inhales mist or vapor that has been contaminated with a particular bacteria. It causes high fever, muscle aches and coughing.
Oil Spill-Related Illnesses: Dermatitis and other skin infections can be contracted following dermal contact with oil or dispersants.
Surfers Ear (Otitis Externa): An infection of the external auditory canal that is often contracted during the summer in humid environments. It disturbs the skin's ability to serve as a barrier.
Gastroenteritis: Causes diarrhea, which can be contracted from cryptosporidium, giardia, shigella, e.coli and norovirus.
Swimmer's Itch (Schistosome cercarial dermatitis): An itchy rash that is caused by parasites; trematode parasites move from host to host.
Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): One of the most common eye infections contracted in water; irritates the eyes causing people to touch the affected area, spreading the infection. Beach-goers often wear contacts when visiting the beach, instead of risking losing expensive prescription glasses. Unfortunately, these can harbor the bacteria responsible for pink eye, and can spread it while swimming.
MRSA: Present in sub-tropical waters; spreads from one body to another through water and is washed into the ocean where the bacteria can infect populations of beach-goers.