The Coastal Health District of Georgia serves the counties of Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long & McIntosh

News


Beach Water Advisory Lifted for Tybee Island

Updated September 19, 2019

The Chatham County Health Department has lifted the advisory for Tybee Strand Beach at the Pier, which stretches from 11th Street to 18th Street on Tybee Island.

The advisory was issued on September 17, 2019 after routine water quality tests showed a high level of enterococci bacteria which increase the risk of gastrointestinal illness in swimmers.

Subsequent water samples showed the bacteria levels had dropped below Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended limits. Therefore, the advisory has been lifted.


September 17, 2019

The Chatham County Health Department has issued a water quality advisory for Tybee Strand Beach at the Pier, which stretches from 11th Street to 18th Street on Tybee Island.

This advisory is only for the area specified above and does not impact any other beaches on the island. There is no way of knowing if going into water that is under advisory will result in illness; however, this beach water advisory is to alert the public of a possible risk of illness associated with water contact. An area under advisory does not mean the beach is closed.
Water samples are collected weekly on Tybee Island, and are tested for enterococcus (pronounced: en·ter·o·coc·cus) bacteria which is found in warm blooded animals including humans but also birds, raccoons, deer, dolphins and other wildlife.

It is difficult to determine exactly where the bacteria come from, but some sources could include animal waste, storm water runoff, or boating waste. When a beach is under advisory, it means that the level of bacteria found in the water is above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended standards. The Chatham County Health Department recommends you do not swim or wade in the water in the area under advisory.

Fish and other seafood caught from this area should be thoroughly washed with fresh water and thoroughly cooked before eating as should fish or seafood caught from any waters. The area will be re-tested, and the advisory will be lifted when tests show the bacteria levels meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended standards.

Raccoon on Dutch Island Tests Positive for Rabies

A raccoon on Dutch Island has tested positive for rabies. A family dog and the dog’s owner had contact with the raccoon. The dog is up to date on rabies vaccinations and will undergo observation for 45 days as a precaution. The owner has been advised to seek follow-up care from his healthcare provider.

Several species of wild animals that are native to coastal Georgia – including raccoons, foxes, and bats – can carry rabies. Rabies is a potentially deadly virus that is primarily spread by infected animals. The Chatham County Health Department Environmental Health office offers these tips to protect you and your family from rabies:

  • Avoid contact with animals you don’t know.
  • Make sure your pets receive the proper immunizations. Dogs and cats should get rabies vaccines after 12 weeks of age, followed by a booster shot within one year and vaccination every 1-3 years depending on veterinary recommendation and vaccine used.
  • Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or by leaving pet food out at night.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick animals to health. Call animal control or a properly licensed animal rescue agency for assistance.
  • Teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn.

Symptoms of rabies in animals include a change in behavior, biting, aggression, showing no fear of natural enemies (such as humans), foaming at the mouth, and paralysis.

If an animal ever bites you, seek medical care immediately and contact Chatham County Animal Services at 912-652-6575 and the Chatham County Environmental Health office at 912-356-2160.

Beach Advisory Updated for Jekyll & St. Simons

If you’re planning to swim or wade at the beach on St. Simons or Jekyll Islands, the Coastal Health District has some precautionary advice: check the water for any signs of oil, and use your best judgement before swimming.

The Coastal Health District issued a general swimming advisory Sunday, asking visitors to stay out of the water after a cargo ship capsized in the St. Simons Sound. Today, the swimming advisory has been modified, and swimmers are asked to be aware and use discretion. Although oil has not been seen on the ocean-facing beaches of St. Simons or Jekyll Islands, beach visitors are urged to visually check the water before deciding to swim. A similar advisory also applies to fish consumption.

  • If you see a sheen of oil on the water’s surface, don’t swim. Contact with oil could cause skin and eye irritation.
  • If there is no visible oil on the water, then swim or wade at your discretion. Stay alert for changing conditions.
  • If a fish smells or tastes like oil, or you can see oil on the fish, do not eat it.

Officials at the incident command center are working to plug the ship’s vent stacks to prevent any additional release of oil, and absorbent booms are soaking up most of the oil immediately around the vessel. Booms have also been placed at the entrance of nearby creeks to protect local oyster beds. Agencies will continue to monitor the beaches and marshes for signs of oil contamination.

Some of the agencies involved in monitoring any ongoing environmental impacts are the Coastal Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and private contractors. If you see oil on the beach, contact the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 to make a report.

Human Case of West Nile Virus Confirmed in Chatham County Resident

First lab-confirmed human case of West Nile Virus in the Coastal Health District in 2019

graphic of mosquito and words west nile virusAn adult living in Chatham County has been diagnosed with West Nile Virus (WNV), a potentially serious illness transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. This is the first human case in the 8-county Coastal Health District in 2019, and the 4th human case of WNV in Georgia this year.

Chatham County Mosquito Control first detected and reported WNV in a sample of local mosquitoes in July, and the virus quickly spread throughout the mosquito population across the county. Already, 2019 is the second most active year for WNV in Chatham County mosquitoes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of people who get WNV won’t have any symptoms. Those who do become sick typically develop a fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. However, about 1 in 150 will develop severe symptoms affecting the central nervous system, which could be fatal. Last year, there were 36 lab-confirmed cases of WNV in humans in Georgia, and 2 deaths.

graphic linking to insect repellent search toolThere is no vaccine to prevent WNV, and no treatment other than supportive care for the symptoms. That’s why the Coastal Health District is urging everyone to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes that carry WNV are more likely to bite during the evening, night, and early morning. Wearing insect repellent containing the chemical DEET will help keep mosquitoes away. Eliminating standing water around the home and yard to keep mosquitoes from breeding.

Tip containers such as children’s toys, flowerpots, and planters after every rain or at least once a week and toss out anything that holds water, such as old tires or cans. Also clean out gutters, remove piles of leaves, and keep vegetation cut low to prevent landing sites for adult mosquitoes.

The Coastal Health District encourages everyone to follow the 5 Ds of mosquito bite prevention:

Dusk/Dawn

Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. If you can, avoid going outside at dusk and dawn to reduce your chance of being bitten.


Dress

Wear loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin. If the mosquitoes can’t get to your skin, they can’t bite you.


DEET

Any skin that is exposed should be covered with an insect repellent containing DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label regarding how to apply and how often to reapply.


Drain

Mosquitoes need standing water for breeding, so be sure to empty any containers holding stagnant water, such as buckets, barrels, flowerpots, and tarps. Be especially mindful after a rain, and toss any standing water to discourage mosquito breeding around your home.


Doors

Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly. If you have screens on your windows and doors, be sure to fix any rips or tears so mosquitoes can’t get through the screens and into your home.

Long Co. Health Dept. & Co. Extension Service Offer Free Cooking Class

The Long County Health Department and the Long County University of Georgia Extension Service is partnering to offer a free cooking course to residents who prepare meals for children (moms/dads; grandparents; teens; and foster parents). The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) cooking classes will take place at the health department from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on September 26 and October 3, 10, and 17.

EFNEP teaches recipes, cooking on a budget, and food safety tips. A cooking utensil or cooking-related item is given to attendees each week at the end of the class.

Children may be brought to class. For more information, please call the Long County Health Department at 912-545-2107 or the Long County Extension office at 912-545-9549.

Swimming Advisory Issued for St. Simons and Jekyll Island Beaches After Cargo Ship Capsizes in St. Simons Sound

Beach goers are advised not to swim or wade in the ocean on St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island until more is known about the environmental impact of a cargo ship capsizing in the St. Simons Sound.

A commercial freight vessel carrying 4,200 vehicles capsized early Sunday morning, and as of Sunday afternoon the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit out of Savannah was working to rescue four crew members.

The Coastal Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will conduct water quality sampling to ensure the safety of shellfish harvesting beds and swimming beaches. The Coastal Health District is issuing a precautionary swimming advisory until that testing can be done.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division, a branch of DNR, has also been notified of the capsizing and is monitoring the situation.

For updates, visit CoastalGaDNR.org and follow CRD on Facebook.

Food Safety After a Power Outage

If your home lost power during recent storms, you may be concerned about the food in your refrigerator – and with good reason. Without electricity, perishable food in refrigerators and freezers may spoil, and eating spoiled food could make you sick.

When In Doubt, Throw It Out

graphic of an open refrigeratorOur post-storm safety mantra for refrigerated/frozen food is: when in doubt, throw it out. But you can also follow these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to determine if your food is safe to eat.

  • Throw out perishable food (such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and leftovers) in your refrigerator when the power has been off for 4 hours or more.

  • Thawed frozen food that still contains ice crystals can be refrozen or cooked. If not, throw it away.

Always remember: while the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. This will help prevent cold air from escaping.


This video has additional information and advice from the US Department of Agriculture:

All County Health Departments Resume Normal Operations Monday, Sept. 9

On Monday, September 9th, all health departments in all 8 counties of the Coastal Health District will be back to normal operational hours.

District and county offices and clinics were closed for several days because of Hurricane Dorian. As the storm approached the Georgia coast, all county operations were suspended because of mandatory evacuations and concerns about severe weather. After the storm, some counties remained closed as employees assisted with reentry for evacuees.

But beginning at 8 a.m. on September 9th, all county health departments, environmental health offices, CARE Centers, and district offices will be back open with normal hours.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the closures, and we thank you for your understanding.

West Nile Virus Detected in Mosquitoes in Glynn County

A mosquito sample collected by Mosquito Control Services in the Brookman area of Glynn County has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV). Mosquito Control routinely collects and samples mosquitoes in several areas of Glynn County, and this is the first sample with a positive test result this year. Mosquito Control Services will be spraying the area during the next several nights, as well as implementing increased surveillance and larvicide activities.

No human cases of WNV have been confirmed this year in any Coastal Health District counties, including Glynn.

WNV is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes and can cause mild to serious illness. “Most people who become infected won’t even show symptoms, but about 1 in 5 may develop a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, Health Director of the Coastal Health District. “A small number of people may become seriously ill and could die from West Nile virus.”

The Coastal Health District is encouraging all residents to take extra precautions now that WNV is actively circulating in the local mosquito population. “There are simple things we can all do to protect ourselves from mosquito bites and discourage mosquito breeding around our homes and yards,” said Dr. Davis.

One of the most effective ways to keep mosquitoes from your yard is by eliminating standing water, which mosquitoes need for breeding. Residents are urged to “Tip ‘n Toss.” After every rainfall, tip out water in flowerpots, planters, children’s toys, wading pools, buckets, and anything else that may be holding water. If it holds water and you don’t need it (old tires, bottles, cans), toss it out. It’s also a good idea to change water frequently in outdoor pet dishes, change bird bath water at least twice a week, and avoid using saucers under outdoor potted plants.

For containers without lids or that are too big to Tip ‘n Toss (garden pools, etc.), use larvicides such as Mosquito Dunks© or Mosquito Torpedoes© and follow the label instructions. These larvicides will not hurt birds or animals. In addition, clean out gutters, remove piles of leaves, and keep vegetation cut low to prevent landing sites for adult mosquitoes.

The Coastal Health District encourages everyone to follow the 5 Ds of mosquito bite prevention:

Dusk/Dawn

Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. If you can, avoid going outside at dusk and dawn to reduce your chance of being bitten.


Dress

Wear loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin. If the mosquitoes can’t get to your skin, they can’t bite you.


DEET

Any skin that is exposed should be covered with an insect repellent containing DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label regarding how to apply and how often to reapply.


Drain

Mosquitoes need standing water for breeding, so be sure to empty any containers holding stagnant water, such as buckets, barrels, flowerpots, and tarps. Be especially mindful after a rain, and toss any standing water to discourage mosquito breeding around your home.


Doors

Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly. If you have screens on your windows and doors, be sure to fix any rips or tears so mosquitoes can’t get through the screens and into your home.

Beach Advisory Lifted for Tybee Middle Beach on Tybee Island

UPDATE:

On August 22, 2019, the Chatham County Health Department lifted the advisory for Tybee Middle Beach at Center Terrace, which stretches from Lovell Street to 11th Street on Tybee Island.

The advisory was issued on August 20, 2019 after routine water quality tests showed a high level of enterococci bacteria which increase the risk of gastrointestinal illness in swimmers.

Subsequent water samples showed the bacteria level had dropped below Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended limits. Therefore, the advisory was lifted.


August 20, 2019

The Chatham County Health Department has issued a beach water quality advisory for Tybee Middle Beach at Center Terrace, which stretches from Lovell Street to 11th Street on Tybee Island.

To see an interactive map of this and all the testing locations, go to GaHealthyBeaches.org.

graphic showing the beach water advisory signsThe advisory is only for the area specified above and does not impact any other beaches on the island. There is no way of knowing if going into water that is under advisory will result in illness; however, this beach water advisory is to alert the public of a possible risk of illness associated with water contact. An area under advisory does not mean the beach is closed.

Water samples are collected weekly on Tybee Island and are tested for enterococcus (pronounced: en·ter·o·coc·cus) bacteria which is found in warm blooded animals including humans but also birds, raccoons, deer, dolphins and other wildlife. It is difficult to determine exactly where the bacteria come from, but some sources could include animal waste, storm water runoff, or boating waste. When a beach is under advisory, it means that the level of bacteria found in the water is above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended standards.

The Chatham County Health Department recommends you do not swim or wade in the water in the area under advisory. Fish and other seafood caught from the advisory area should be thoroughly washed with fresh water and thoroughly cooked before eating, as should fish or seafood caught from any waters.

The area will be retested and the advisory will be lifted when tests show the bacteria level meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended standards.


Frequently Asked Questions about Beach Water Advisories

Why is the water tested and what is it tested for?
The water is tested as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s beach monitoring program which includes all Georgia beaches. Water samples are taken all along the island and tested for enterococcus (pronounced: en•ter•o•coc•cus) bacteria which is found in warm blooded animals including humans but also birds, raccoons, deer, dolphins and other wildlife.

Do you know where the bacteria come from?
It is difficult to determine exactly where the bacteria come from but some sources could include animal waste, storm water runoff, or boating waste.

What does it mean when a beach is under advisory?
It means that the level of bacteria found in the water is above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended standards. When the level of bacteria is higher than it should be there is increased risk of illness to swimmers so the public is advised not to swim or wade in the water in that particular area.

Will I get sick if I go into water that is under advisory?
There is no way to say for sure whether or not you will get sick if you go into water that is under advisory but you will be at an increased risk of illness. Risk of illness comes from contacting beach water in several ways including ingesting water while swimming, getting water in the nose, eyes, and ears or getting water in an open wound. Some examples of possible illness include possible stomach upset, ear infection, sore throat, or wound infection.

What do I do if I have been swimming in water that was under advisory but I didn’t realize it?
There is no way to say for sure whether or not you will get sick if you were swimming or wading in water that was under advisory. The best thing to do is to be aware of any changes in your health. If you start to experience stomach upset, ear infection, sore throat, or wound infection, after you have been in contact with water that was under advisory, contact a healthcare provider.

Is the beach closed?
No, the beach is not closed. An advisory simply means that increased levels of bacteria were found in the water, not on the beach, which is why public health suggests no swimming or wading in the water (risk of illness comes from contact with the water).

Does the advisory cover the entire island?
No. An advisory only covers a certain area. Even if part of the beach is under advisory there are plenty of other beach access points to areas that aren’t under advisory.

How do you know the bacteria are only in one certain area of the water?
Beaches have been divided up into zones. Water samples are taken from the center of each zone and if bacteria levels are found to be higher in a certain zone then an advisory is issued for that area. Because it’s not possible to determine exactly where the bacteria levels switch from “okay” to “elevated,” the advisory is issued for a fairly large area. If water samples from more than one zone indicate higher levels of bacteria then multiple advisories will be issued but again, only for the areas where bacteria is higher.

How long do areas stay under advisory?
When an advisory is issued, another sample of the water in the area under advisory is taken within a few days and retested. An area will stay under advisory until the test shows that bacteria in the water have decreased to an acceptable level as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency.

How often is beach water tested?
Water at the beaches on Jekyll, St. Simons, and Tybee Islands is tested once a week, year-round. Beaches that are under permanent advisory are tested once a quarter (four times a year).

What does it mean if a beach is under a permanent advisory?
A permanent advisory means that there are continually elevated bacteria levels indicating a potential human health risk and therefore swimming or wading is advised against.

Can I eat fish I’ve caught from a beach that’s under advisory?
Yes, fish and other seafood caught in area(s) should be thoroughly washed with fresh water and thoroughly cooked before eating as should fish or seafood caught from any waters.

For more information, visit our beach water testing page.