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Study shows time spent at the beach may increase risk of illness

A beach study reports that the more time a beachgoer spends in the water or wet sand, the higher their risk is of acquiring gastrointestinal illness, said Jay M. Fleisher, associate professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University.

Beach sand may become contaminated by gull droppings and other sources of fecal-derived organisms that then diffuse into wet sand and water, said Tonya Bonilla, a doctoral student in the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathology. Bonilla conducted studies at Fort Lauderdale Beach, Hollywood Beach and Hobie Beach during a two-year period.

“When one considers how many people use this beach in the course of a year, we can end up with a substantial public health problem,” Bonilla said.

Bonilla’s findings suggest that water is an important factor in the transmission of pathogens, or disease-causing bacteria, but to confirm it, “a more comprehensive and targeted epidemiological approach is needed,” she said.

Helena Solo-Gabriele, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Miami, is conducting further research related to Bonilla’s findings.

Solo-Gabriele and her research team are in the process of learning about the relationship between water quality and human health effects.

“We started our study in December and hope to finish up by June,” she said. “By then, we’ll have some better ideas as to the results.”

-Chelsea Kate Isaacs

University wants millions for hospital construction, renovations

The University of Miami wants up to $385 million in bonds to support its hospital and medical campus.

According to a county memo, UM would use the tax-exempt revenue bonds from the Miami-Dade Educational Facilities Authority to finance or refinance the cost of its acquisition and renovation of Cedars Medical Center. The university acquired the property for $260 million in November and merged it into its University of Miami Hospital. The bonds would also be used to construct, renovate and equip the hospital, and to construct and renovate facilities on its 67-acre medical campus, the South Florida Business Journal reported.

The bonds, which would be issued in April, will have no fiscal impact on Miami-Dade County because the university plans to take care of the liability through its revenue.

Miami-Dade’s Budget and Finance Committee will hear the motion on Feb. 12. The full board of county commissioners may then hear it on March 4.

-Chelsea Kate Isaacs

February 11, 2008

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