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This year there have been many reports of dogs suffering gastrointestinal illness after swimming in the Thames at Hurst Park.

Dogs swim in the river more frequently than people, which may be the reason reports of dogs contracting intestinal problems are more common.

However in the past few years people too have become very ill after contact with river water here.

Most notably about 300 swimmers at Hampton Court picked up gastrointenstinal infections after a sponsored swim in 2013. The government have issued a health warning that contact with Thames river water can carry serious health risks.

Tap to see:: Government warning on swimming in the Thames. - Public Health England

Although there was once a bathing station at Hurst Park, the Environment Agency ask the Friends to point out that the river Thames here is not designated bathing water, and as such it is not monitored for infectious organisms affecting human and animal health.

Whilst many of us used to swim in the Thames perfectly safely the incidence of illness is a recent phenomenom which may be caused by the discharge of human effluent from the 40-50 residential boats illegally moored upstream of Hurst Park.

A volunteer who takes the water samples at Hurst Park for the worldwide Fresh Water Watch project, agreed: "The arrival of scores of unauthorised residential boats upstream of Hurst Park could be the cause for this increase in stomach illnesses caused by contact with river water. There are always risks from Weil's disease, Cryptosporidium and Giardia which are serious and unpleasant but a recent government report suggested there may be other organisms involved too. The risks can apply just as much to splashing, or other contact with river water where water goes into the eyes, the mouth, insect bites or open wounds. People who were once happy to swim in the Thames no longer do so because of these health risks. We hope the Environment Agency will put a stop to the illegal discharges soon but so far there is no sign of it"

If you or your dogs become ill after contact with river water at Hurst Park we'd be grateful if you would let the Friends of Hurst Park know so that we can log incidents - as far as we are aware no other records are being kept at the moment.

See also other references:

Thames Health Warrning issued - Evening Standard

River Thames Swimmers risk gastrointestinal illness - BBC News

Investigation into the River Thames infection at Hampton Court - Public Health England

David Walliams experience - The Guardian

Swimming in the Thames can carry risk of illness - Maidenhead Advertiser