Blackfoot Mayor Mike Virtue said that the stories going around about swimmer's itch at Jensen Grove are out of control and that there is much misinformation getting out to the public. Virtue said that visitors to Jensen Grove are afraid to go in the water after recent stories and social media postings about swimmer's itch bites with black worms embedded in the skin.
"The swimmers are freaking out. There are no black worms at Jensen Grove that can get into your body and eat your brain," he joked.
On a serious note, Virtue said that swimmer's itch is a problem at Jensen Grove as well as other bodies of water throughout the region.
"Swimmers itch is a problem every year. There are signs in the area warning swimmers about the risk of swimmer's itch and that they should 'enter at their own risk,' " he said.
Swimmer's itch is more likely to occur in shallow water. It is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to microscopic parasites carried by waterfowl (such as geese and seagulls) and snails. The parasites burrow into the skin which is what causes the reaction," he said.
The Southeast Idaho Public Health Department offers tips to avoid swimmer itch:
-Shower as soon as possible after coming out of the water and briskly dry off with a towel especially where the bathing suit touches the skin.
-Limit the amount of time playing in shallow water as this is here the organisms are found.
-Do not feed waterfowl in the area where people swim.
Virtue stressed that shower facilities are available at Jensen Grove at the restroom across from the amphitheater. He urges swimmers to shower as soon as they can after leaving the water to decrease the chances of getting swimmer's itch.
Most cases of swimmer's do not require medical attention and can be remedied by baking soda baths or over-the-counter anti-itch lotions.
The medical name for swimmer's itch is cercarial dermatitis, said PA Ronda Grandee at the Blackfoot Medical Clinic.
It's a micro-parasite that lives in birds, she said. It goes into the bird's feces and then it is dropped into water where it hatches. It lives in snails and birds.
"This parasite does not live in humans," Grandee said. "It dies and can be washed right off.
Swimmer's itch can give people a rash or itch, she said. If it gets to a tingly or burning sensation, over-the-counter applications can be used.
Some of these over-the counter solutions are:
° Place cool compresses on it.
° Bath in Epson salts, Aveno (oatmeal stuff) or apply a baking soda compress.
° Use hydro-cortizon, an over-the-counter steroid cream.
"It goes away in a few days," said Grandee.
If it gets really bad, if the area becomes infected or the person has a favor or is throwing-up, he/she needs to be seen.
Grandee said the Blackfoot Medical Clinic has seen an increase of these cases in the past three weeks.
Paul Kotter, public relations director at Bingham Memorial Hospital, said the staff at First Choice Urgent Care saw an increase in swimmer's itch cases last Thursday.
"It was a one-day thing," Kotter said.