The National Environment Agency (NEA) has issued a hygiene advisory after four people developed skin irritation from visiting two Sentosa beaches on two separate trips.
“Beach users are advised to regularly wash their hands, avoid swimming or wading in bodies of water with open wounds, and shower after exposure to marine water,” it stated.
Family Hospitalised After Trip to Sentosa Beach
What was intended as a leisurely family outing to the Tanjong Beach on Sentosa (23 July) led to subsequent days of their hospitalisation from 23 July to 26 July.
According to reports, a family of three had to undergo incision and drainage surgery at the National University Hospital to remove pus from their infected wounds.
And as it appears, they were not the only ones who experienced such turmoil.
Their neighbour’s five-year-old son reportedly developed a $1 coin-size itchy boil below his knee in a separate visit (4 Aug) to HydroDash, a floating obstacle course in Palawan Beach.
The cause of infection of the four people is revealed to be Staphylococcus aureus (staph)—a bacteria found on the skin and in the nostrils of three out of every 10 people.
Staph can usually cause minor irritation in an infected person.
While it is still unclear as to how the wounds of these four people were infected, it is said that staph can be passed from an infected person to another.
Apart from it being able to be left on surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Staph is also a common cause of food poisoning with the ability to produce toxins.
Monitoring of Waters around Singapore
According to NEA, waters around Singapore do not undergo checks for the staph bacteria.
With no guidelines set for the level of S. aureus in the water of recreational beaches by WHO, NEA said that it is, therefore, unable to ascertain whether the S. aureus levels in the recreational waters pose any public health risk.
Although considered common and largely harmless, Staph can cause serious infections that can lead to sepsis or death.
For illustration purposes only, this is how a staph infection looks like. | Image source: Website/steverotter
WHO highlights that the staph bacteria can be found in water environments such as swimming pools, spa pools, and other recreational waters.
The origin of Staphylococcus in beach sand is said to be attributed to human activity and correlates with the number of swimmers on the beach.
One thing to note, however, is that staph is non-faecally-derived, unlike enterococcus—a harmful bacterium found in animal and human faeces.
Every week, the water quality at seven beaches (including those in Sentosa) is monitored for the presence of enterococcus.
For the month of July, the Enterococcus counts were within the WHO guidelines for primary contact activities such as swimming, NEA said in its statement.
“Enterococcus is the most common indicator adopted for recreational beach water quality.”
What To Take Note When Planning a Family Trip to the Beach
While beach-goers can be more prone to bacterial infections with open wounds such as staph, that is not to say that healthy individuals are not at risk to them.
As previously mentioned, staph is a common cause of food poisoning. With more heading out to the beach now as restrictions ease, we certainly do not want to risk our health.
Image source: Facebook/Sentosa
If you’re planning to take the kids out for a family beach trip, here are some simple tips to consider:
Travel light and keep the sand out
You do not want to lug around heavy bags of stuff, as this will only end up annoying you in the heat of the day, not to mention keeping the beach sand out of everything. Make up a suitable list and only pack necessities.
Stick to easy finger food styles
If you’re traveling to the beach as a family, stick to easy finger food styles. The last thing you want to do is clean up after your kids when they spill their plated food. Ideal finger food choices would include baby carrots, sandwiches (but avoid mayo seasoning), sausages, crackers, curry puffs and pastries, fruits, burgers, cool drinks, and lots of water. Your kids will be hot and thirsty so besides cool drinks, water is also important to keep them hydrated.
Maintain hygiene and clean up!
This step is so important and you definitely want to wash off all the remnants on your body from the sand and water, to avoid any possible infection. Also, check for any open wounds that could arise due to activities. Do not forget to pack garbage disposal bags for your family beach trip and clean up.
Image source: Lead image via Facebook/Sentosa and website/steverotter (for illustration purposes only).