Hurricane Ian six months later: Is bacteria still in Gulf of Mexico in SWFL?

How much safer is it to swim off Southwest Florida beaches now that it’s been six months since Hurricane Ian?

Here’s what we know:

What is the status of the Gulf of Mexico water quality now?

As part of the state’s healthy beaches program, the state Department of Health tests for enterococci bacteria, which can be an indicator of fecal pollution.

“At this time, samplings in Collier County do not reflect this bacteria,” according to the state agency in Collier.

If you want to see the data yourself, go to

The health department in Lee did not say what the current water quality is in Lee but said residents can access information about various key issues affecting water quality and ways to help protect Florida’s water resources.

Enteric bacteria normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals, but its presence in recreational waters is an indication of fecal pollution.

The bacteria may come from stormwater runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. If it is present in high concentrations and ingested while swimming or if it enters the skin through a cut or sore, it may cause an upset stomach, eye irritation, infections or rashes.

Are the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico safe to swim?

As beaches reopen, residents in Lee are advised to follow these tips:

  • Exercise caution during water activities.

  • Be mindful that debris continues to wash onshore and can be quickly obscured by sand.

  • Follow basic hygiene and always wash your hands with soap and water, particularly before eating.

  • If you have open cuts or sores exposed to sea water or brackish water, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and disinfected water.

  • Apply antibiotic cream to reduce the risk of infection. If a wound or sore develops redness, swelling or drainage, see a physician.

What about the risk of Vibrio vulnificus and waters impacted by Hurricane Ian?

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that is naturally occurring in warm salt or brackish water. Health officials advise staying out of the water if you have fresh cuts or scrapes.

Here’s where to search for more information:

What is the latest on red tide?

The health department does not test for red tide.

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Is it safe to swin in water six months after hurricane ian in Florida