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Health department monitors Agate Bay

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A water contact advisory was issued for Agate Bay beach in Two Harbors on Tuesday and removed on Wednesday.

The Minnesota Department of Health's beach-monitoring program detected elevated levels of E. coli bacteria, which could indicate fecal contamination containing pathogens that cause water-borne illness. Retesting on Tuesday concluded that the beach was safe for resuming activities. Water-borne contamination often has a short lifespan, and can dissipate due to wave action or UV rays.

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Water sampled at nearby Burlington Bay had normal levels of indicator bacteria and no advisory was issued for the water there. This is the first time an advisory has been issued for Agate Bay this year.

While E. coli bacteria is not usually harmful, it can indicate contamination by fecal matter and the presence of pathogens. It's easier and less expensive to measure bacteria levels than look for the pathogens themselves. Agate Bay and Burlington Bay are sampled a minimum of once a week.

Last year, of the 755 samples taken, 13.5 percent triggered water-contact advisories.

Symptoms of water-borne illness include ear and eye infections, stomach-aches, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms. Children, elderly, and people with weakened immune systems have a greater chance of getting sick when they come in contact with contaminated water.

People who think they may have a water-borne illness should contact the county health department to report their condition, according to the MNBeaches.org website.

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