Skip to main content

FOI 1005 - Infections in Relation to Water Exposure


Information Requested:

I would like to access any information you hold on the incidence of infections (such as to the gut, urinary tract and ears) and to know whether there is any national monitoring of such infections and whether they are rising as a result of the increasing popularity of swimming and dipping across Wales.  I would also like to know what plans you have to monitor these matters in the future.


Information provided for the answer:

Thank you for your recent request dated 24th November 2022.
The below table to describe the trends observed in Wales over the past 5 years in terms of Gastrointestinal (GI) illness. The table describes the total number of cases, the response rate and then the numbers and proportions with any other non-swimming pool water exposure of those that responded. In the GI exposure questionnaire, cases are not asked specifically about exposures to the sea, so the “Water Exposure” column specifically refers to any case that answered “Yes” to the following question: “TAKEN PART IN ANY OTHER (NON SWIMMING POOL) WATER-BASED ACTIVITY WHICH COULD HAVE LED TO ANY ACCIDENTAL SWALLOWING OF WATER; INCLUDES PADDLING POOLS, RIVERS, LAKES, PONDS, SAILING, CANOEING, WINDSURFING, FISHING, ETC?”. For STEC O157, a separate questionnaire is used and therefore those numbers do refer specifically to sea exposures. Data for STEC O157 was not available before 2021. 
Note: Reporting a non-swimming pool water based activity in the days before symptom onset does not necessarily mean that this was the source of infection. 
From this table, there is a clear decrease in water exposure in the pandemic years (2020 -2021) most likely due to changes in behaviours during these years. The proportions reporting non-swimming pool water exposure in 2022 appears to be similar to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. This does not suggest an increase in GI infections from sea-swimming since before the pandemic. 

Infections in Relation to Water Exposure Data Table 


In terms of monitoring this in the future, the Public Health Wales GI/Zoonoses team will continue to monitor sea exposures recorded in the exposure questionnaires in analyses used in our annual reports. Therefore we will be aware of any subsequent increases in sea associated infections.


If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of the decision, you should write to the Corporate Complaints Manager, Public Health Wales NHS Trust, 3, Number 2, Capital Quarter, Tyndall Street, Cardiff, CF10 4BZ.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint or review, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the Trust. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner for Wales
2nd Floor
Churchill House
Churchill Way
CF10 2HH

Telephone: 029 2067 8400