Officials: Don’t Panic, Most Florida Panhandle Beaches Are Open
Florida health officials are clamoring to set the story straight after a news outlet erroneously warned people to stay away from all of Florida’s panhandle beaches due to a “flesh-eating bacteria.”
But, there are only eight beaches closed, due to fecal bacteria, not flesh-eating bacteria, said officials from the Florida Department of Health on June 30.
The eight beaches have high concentrations of fecal bacteria and are located in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
“We often see elevated levels of fecal indicator bacteria after experiencing significant rainfall,” the health department website states. It can be caused by stormwater runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage.
The presence of enteric bacteria can be an indication of fecal pollution, which can cause infection, disease, or rashes if ingested while swimming or enter the body through a cut or sore.
Aside from the eight beaches, the rest of the panhandle from Panama City to Pensacola remains open.
“Florida’s beaches are safe to enjoy responsibly,” the health department said on its website. “At present, all panhandle beaches have satisfactory water quality for fecal indicator bacteria.”
Beaches Currently Closed
Okaloosa County: Clement E. Taylor Park, East Pass, Garniers Park, Henderson Beach, Poquito Park, and Rocky Bayou State Park
Walton County: Blue Mountain Beach and County Park (Miramar) Beach
Another stretch prone to fecal bacteria are the beaches along the Choctawhatchee Bay.
Visit the Health Florida website for the latest status on Florida’s beaches.
A recent case of brain eating amoeba that killed 18-year-old Lauren Seitz has heightened concerns over water quality for the summer.
Seitz was rafting at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C., with her church group right before she contracted an infection from the amoeba
Last August, another case in North Carolina occurred when Elizabeth Knight, 24, died after spending a day at Lake Murray.