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An increased number of suspected outbreaks of gastroenteritis linked to bathing water were reported to the Finnish food- and waterborne outbreak (FWO) registry in July and August 2014. The investigation reports were assessed by a national outbreak investigation panel. Eight confirmed outbreaks were identified among the 15 suspected outbreaks linked to bathing water that had been reported to the FWO registry. According to the outbreak investigation reports, 1,453 persons fell ill during these outbreaks. Epidemiological and microbiological data revealed noroviruses as the main causative agents. During the outbreaks, exceptionally warm weather had boosted the use of beaches. Six of eight outbreaks occurred at small lakes; for those, the investigation strongly suggested that the beach users were the source of contamination. In one of those eight outbreaks, an external source of contamination was identified and elevated levels of faecal indicator bacteria (FIB) were noted in water. In the remaining outbreaks, FIB analyses were insufficient to describe the hygienic quality of the water. Restrictions against bathing proved effective in controlling the outbreaks. In spring 2015, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) published guidelines for outbreak control to prevent bathing water outbreaks.


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