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Beware of bacteria in warm lakes

Comanche County_High temperatures lead to folks seeking ways to cool down.  One of the most popular ways - a trip to the lake.  However, the lake can be dangerous.  Jus this week, a lake in Fort Worth, Texas, made more than 600 people sick.  Health officials there say that the water has tested positive for parasites that cause a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  The lake has since been closed, but 7News wanted to find out how our lakes are doing this summer.

According to reports from the water treatment plant, they're okay.  However, officials say that this is the best time of year for bacteria growth - and the worst time of year for swimmers.  With the weather heating up, additional warmth increase levels of bacteria in the lakes.  Rachel Clothier and her family took a trip to the lake to enjoy the water, and she hopes that all they take home are wet bathing suits. 

Lakes are filled with a lot more than water.  All types of waterborne germs swim in the cool pools, which is why the water treatment plant tests them once per month.  Water Treatment Plant Superintendent David Herring says that they test the water for Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and E-Coli, just before it gets to the plant - which is pretty far from the actual lake.  These bacteria can cause digestion problems, infection - and sometimes death.  Lake Lawtonka's test showed traces of E-Coli.  "We have E-coli in the water - nothing very high but we do have it," said Herring.  "You get up around the swimming areas and stuff, and the levels will be higher."

If bacteria levels in the water rise high enough, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will close the lake to swimmers and let nature take over.  "Sunlight will rectify it, given time - it's natural," said Herring.  However, Clothier says she doesn't take any chances when taking her family to vacation at the lake.  "For one thing, you need to keep your head above water, and not swallow any of the water whatsoever," she said.  Herring says the lake isn't currently in danger of having dangerously high bacteria levels, but Clothier says she's not so sure.  "It looks nice and clean, but looks can be deceiving."

When swimming in a lake, avoid areas with floating debris, stagnant water, or dead fish - these areas are full of dangerous bacteria.  If you have any cuts or scrapes on your skin, disinfect them with clean water and soap immediately after swimming.

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