1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Swimmers warned against Baltic amid heat wave

Keith Walker
July 24, 2018

The Baltic Sea's warmer waters have brought an increased risk from the vibrio bacteria. Health officials in the northeast of Germany have warned vulnerable people against bathing in coastal waters.

People swimming where swimming is forbidden on the Baltic Sea coast
Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/M. Fludra

German health officials have warned members of certain 'at risk' groups to avoid swimming in the Baltic Sea as increased water temperature poses a danger from vibrio bacteria.

The health ministry in Germany's northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania warned that people living with HIV, the elderly, liver patients and alcohol addicts are particularly prone to bacterial infection.

Germany's weather service (DWD) issued a heat warning for large parts of Germany on Monday and advised the elderly and sick people to sit in the shade, drink plenty of water and avoid the heat.

Read more: New Baltic bacteria linked to ocean warming (2012)

Vibrio vulnificus, a variant of the bacteria that causes cholera, can lead to serious illness, requiring intensive care, limb amputation and can even prove fatal.
Vibrio vulnificus, a variant of the bacteria that causes cholera, can lead to serious illness and can even prove fatal.Image: picture-alliance/chromorange/Media for Medical

What are vibrio bacteria? Vibrio bacteria live in certain coastal waters and are present in higher concentrations between May and October when water temperatures are warmer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How does infection occur? If open wounds come into contact with infected sea water, vibrio bacteria can infect the wounds. People may also become infected by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters. Elderly and immunosuppressed people are at particular risk of infection.

Symptoms: When ingested, Vibrio bacteria can cause watery diarrhea, often accompanied by abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills. According to the CDC, these symptoms usually occur within 24 hours of ingestion and last about 3 days. "Severe illness is rare and typically occurs in people with a weakened immune system."

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.