Senior adviser at the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), Line Ødegård Angeloff, tells Dagbladet that there has been an increase in the number of people who have reported infections from bacteria that can cause serious infections.
– We are talking about two types of bacteria that are quite similar, and that have the same disease course, she says and adds:
– One is “Shewanella” where 7 cases have now been registered. The other is «Vibrio». Of these, 14 cases have been registered so far this summer.
The cases have been reported to the national Notification System for Infectious Diseases.
These are bacteria that live naturally in the sea. The bacterium thrives best in brackish to sea water, where it is over 20 degrees in the water.
In Norway, we find these bacteria mainly in the south and southeast of the country.
“I can not comment on how serious the cases registered this summer are, but in general the infection can vary from mild ear canal infections to more serious wound infections, which can cause blood poisoning and tissue damage,” says Angeloff.
Cases from previous years show that the consequences in the worst case can be very serious. In 2016, a woman had to amputate her leg as a result of the infection, after bathing at Høvik in the Oslo Fjord.
Increase in hot summers
Angeloff says that they have done a study and looked at cases of infections over five years, from 2014 to 2018.
– We see a small increase in the years it has been warmest, such as in 2014 and 2018. With that in mind, climate change may affect, and thus we can expect an increase in the years ahead. However, it is not certain, and there is no basis for concluding with it, because it has not been investigated in previous years. But we are following developments, she says.
The bacterium finds its “way in” through open wounds and penetrates the skin and bloodstream. It can be from tears you get while bathing, or wounds you already have that have not healed sufficiently. It can also happen with new tattoos.
– Can go fast
Older people, people with underlying diseases and those with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable.
Angeloff and FHI recommend following closely whether wounds develop after swimming in the sea.
– You have to look for plaster, swelling and redness. It can take half a day to several days before the disease breaks out. It can go fast, says the senior adviser and adds:
– In general, we recommend rinsing wounds in clean water after bathing, and drying well afterwards.
She also states that bathing shoes can be a good alternative for prevention.