The University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health will expand its rapid testing program at Chicago beaches this summer to detect dangerous levels of bacteria. UIC SPH has partnered with the Chicago Park District for the past two summers to conduct same-day water testing that park officials use to guide swim advisories that warn swimmers of dangerous bacteria levels. This summer the program will expand from nine beaches to 20.
The decision to expand the program came after a UIC study published in the journal Environmental Health showed that rapid testing, which analyzes levels of bacterial DNA in a water sample in just three to four hours, can guide a swim advisory by early afternoon the same day. In contrast, water culture testing takes 24 to 48 hours to yield results and cannot be used to inform swimmers until the next day or the day after that. The researchers also found that same-day, rapid testing was more accurate.
“Because water quality and water bacteria levels can change both rapidly and dramatically, culturing water samples to make decisions on issuing swim advisories today based on yesterday’s results is not the ideal way to protect the public’s health,” said lead author Dr. Samuel Dorevitch, associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences.
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