Waterborne Illnesses

Increase, CDC Says

The number of Americans who got sick from swimming or bathing in tainted pools, spas and other facilities jumped 21 percent to a record high during 2001 and 2002, the government reported yesterday.

Poor pool and spa maintenance, watershed contamination, and the tendency of some people to swim while sick were among the factors that led to the rise in illnesses such as diarrhea and skin infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Diarrhea can cause severe dehydration and is especially dangerous to pregnant women, young children and those with weak immune systems.

A total of 2,536 swimmers and recreational bathers in 23 states contracted recreation-linked waterborne diseases between January 2001 and December 2002. Sixty-one people were hospitalized, and eight died.

The 65 outbreaks during the period was the highest number recorded since the government began tracking the problem in 1978.

Michael Beach, a CDC epidemiologist, said people should refrain from swimming until two weeks after the end of a bout of diarrhea.

Being Overweight

Can Reduce Fertility

Men who weigh too much are more likely to have poor sperm quality, research on nearly 1,600 young Danish men has found. Being too thin is a problem, too.

A new study confirms that overweight women also are less likely to become pregnant, even with in vitro fertilization.

"Among the severely obese, we saw significantly reduced implantation and pregnancy rates," said David Ryley of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He presented the women's study at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The sperm study was done by doctors at hospitals and universities in Denmark and published in the October issue of the reproductive society's journal, Fertility & Sterility.

It involved 1,558 men, average age 19, who volunteered to provide a semen sample during exams to determine their fitness for military service.

A Tantalizing Clue

To Common Diseases

A study of a closely knit family with several members suffering from a rare illness is providing what may be important clues to the cause of a variety of common diseases.

Starting with a woman suffering from low levels of magnesium in her blood, researchers found several family members with the same problem. They located a previously unknown genetic mutation that linked family members with several ailments in common.

The mutation affects the mitochondria, organelles that produce energy in each cell of the body.

This specific mutation may be rare, but the finding alerts researchers that problems with the mitochondria may be linked to several ailments.

High blood pressure and cholesterol are very common problems, affecting a quarter of the adult population, and their cause has been unknown, said Richard P. Lifton of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, lead researcher in the study. His findings were published online yesterday by the journal Science.

-- From News Services