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9 Surprising Diseases You Can Catch In The Nation's Oceans (PHOTOS)

Huffington Post     First Posted: 08/20/10 09:19 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 06:25 PM ET

Whether we like it or not, our nation's beaches are not as clean as we would prefer them to be. Ocean water contaminated with sewage, storm run-off and oil carries bacteria, parasites, and viruses, which can cause a variety of diseases. From Staph infections to earaches, hepatitis to skin rashes and respiratory issues, America's waters are an environmental hot bed for infection. For the last five years, there have been 18,000 beach closings across the United States. 2009 brought 18,682 days of closures and notices as a result of water contamination and pollution at beaches throughout the United States.

As summer ends, we here at HuffPost Green decided to explore the range of possible illnesses that can be contracted at our nation's beaches due to environmental contamination. While oiled beaches are making the most headlins this summer, there are numerous other contamination that can be found at the beach. Recreational water illnesses can be caught by swallowing contaminated water, inhaling infected mist, and swimming in polluted waters. Check out our slideshow of nine surprising infections that are found in the nation's oceans. As always, we want to hear from you. Tell us what you think in the comments.

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Hepatitis is a concern for many swimmers, surfers and beachgoers in the United States due to the improper disposal of red waste, a hazardous waste, such as syringes. The disease can be spread in the nation’s waters through needle and blood pollution. Officials at Lake Michigan beaches encourage visitors to take caution at the beach this month. It is believed that the red waste pollution traveled from Milwaukee sewer overflows. The syringes could carry bacteria and viruses containing hepatitis and AIDS. At San Diego’s Imperial Beach, pollution is high in the popular surfing location. The beach receives sewage run-off from Southern California's Tijuana River. Officials worry that bodies have been discarded into the area along the river, thus contaminating the water. Many local surfers received hepatitis-A vaccines.

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Most Surprising Waterborne Infections
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Check the status of your favorite beaches at the NRDC's Testing the Waters database.

For tips on safe swimming, visit the Center for Disease Control's Healthy Swimming site.