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Female Belgian sailor becomes first Olympic athlete to contract severe stomach infection after racing in Rio's sewage-filled waters


(NaturalNews) Belgian sailor Evi Van Acker is unlucky enough to have become the first athlete competing at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to be affected by the region's grossly contaminated waters, which are known to harbor raw sewage, garbage and even human body parts.

Acker's coach Wil Van Bladel told the media that the star sailor likely contracted a bacterium from the water during practice runs in July in Rio's polluted Guanabara Bay. The illness has now evolved into a full-blown gastrointestinal infection that could potentially prevent the athlete from earning a well-deserved medal.

"Her poor performances have put her at risk of missing out on a medal in the Laser Radial class," reports the Daily Mail. Acker won the bronze while competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. But her stomach infection is making it much more difficult to perform as well this year.

Rio's polluted waters already affecting athletes' performances

"Evi caught a bacteria in early July that causes dysentery," said van Bladel. "Doctors say this can seriously disrupt energy levels for three months. It became clear yesterday that she lacked energy during tough conditions. She could not use full force for a top condition. ... The likelihood that she caught it here during contact with the water is very big."

Acker was evaluated by medical staff following her races on Wednesday, and they confirmed that so far this seems to be an isolated case. However, it's highly probably that more athletes will fall ill.

The South Florida Times reported last month that Olympic athletes "risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete" in the games due to severe water pollution.

Water sampling detected exceedingly high levels of disease-causing viruses

Water sampling conducted by the Associated Press detected "dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria" that entered the water through the dumping of raw sewage.

Experts say that visitors to the region, including Olympic athletes, are far more at risk for infection than are natives, because they haven't developed immunity to the germs due to lack of exposure.

"Raw waste runs through open-air ditches to streams and rivers that feed the Olympic water sites. As a result, Olympic athletes are almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses that in some tests measured up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach," the paper reported.

The gastrointestinal infection Acker contracted "makes it difficult for her to go through long periods of sustained effort," said her coach.

The infection results in inflammation of the stomach and intestines, causing an array of uncomfortable symptoms including vomiting, severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

The illness is normally contracted by ingesting food or water contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella found in meat, dairy and egg products.

Antibiotic resistance most imminent threat to public health

The best way to beat a stomach infection is to drink lots of fluids and consume food and drinks with potassium and electrolytes, and of course, not to swallow sewage water.

Arguably one of the greatest risks of competing in Rio's contaminated water is the risk of developing an antibiotic resistant infection.

Superbugs have become much more prevalent over the years due to environmentally destructive practices including factory farming, land application of biosolids, pollution in general and the over-prescription of antibiotics.

The World Health Organization concluded that antibiotic resistance is one of the world's greatest threats to public health. "It can affect anyone, of any age, in any country," it reports.

"A growing number of infections—such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhoea—are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective."





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