Doctor says high bacteria levels not necessarily a cause for concern

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF)- The NRDC findings claim Horry County beaches had the highest levels of bacteria in the whole state in 2013.  But one local doctor isn't convinced you need to worry about taking a dip.

All together, 10 beaches in the county had 10 to 20 percent higher bacteria levels than what is considered safe. The three beaches with the highest amount of bacteria were at Briarcliffe Acres, Horry County Campgrounds and Arcadia.

But one local doctor says bacteria levels always depend on when samples were collected. Medical Director For Doctors Care Beach Region, Dr. Dennis Rhoades, questions when and where the data was collected.

"Was the data collected right after a severe rainstorm? Yes, you have a lot higher bacteria count," he said. "That's normal."

A total of 769 samples were taken from Myrtle Beach ocean water, and 23 percent of those had higher bacteria levels than the national safety threshold.

Doctor Rhoades says we have to remember the other 80 percent didn't test that high.  He says odds are most of the beaches are safe.

Experts warn you can catch illnesses like the stomach flu or pink eye, but Dr. Rhoades explains it's hard to pinpoint where most bacterial infections come from.

"You can get pink eye from a grocery store cart - that's why I tell people to wipe them down first," he said.

Dr. Rhoades  said The biggest thing is correcting this one big misconception: "If you have an open wound don't go into the water." Dr. Rhoades says everyone's body reacts differently and you really just have to know yourself.

"Now there are some people that will get ill with a lower amount of bacteria and then there are some people with a really good resistance and can sustain a higher level of bacteria before they get ill," he added.

Despite these findings, Dr. Rhoades said the ocean water is nothing to worry about compared to pools and hot tubs if the chlorine level isn't just right.

"A hot tub is actually just as dangerous as the ocean water," he explained. "I actually see more skin infections from hot tub use than I do from the ocean water."

Dr. Rhoades says many tourists actually come here with infections first and then they get worse.

Now Myrtle Beach and Horry county were not the only beaches called out in this report. You can check out results from Charleston and Georgetown county beaches by clicking here.

See complete data and an interactive map showing bacteria level results all of South Carolina's beaches here:

You can find the most recent monitoring station data in an interactive map on the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control website here:

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