Swimmer's itch (also called Schistosome dermatitis) is a temporary skin infection acquired by bathers in some lakes. Swimmer's Itch appears as a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites that infect some birds and mammals. These microscopic
parasites are first released from infected snails into fresh and salt water (such as lakes, ponds, and oceans) and then subsequently infect certain birds and mammals. If the parasite comes into contact with a swimmer, it can cause an allergic reaction and rash.
Ducks are the most common host of the parasite but other birds and mammals that spend their life in or around the water may also be a host. In Great Pond and Long Pond, the common merganser and the red breasted merganser have been identified as the principal host for the swimmer's itch parasite.
Symptoms of swimmer's itch may include:
* tingling, burning, or itching of the skin
* small reddish pimples
* small blisters
Most cases of swimmer's itch do not require medical attention.
More on Swimmer's Itch from Maine DEP
More on Swimmer's Itch from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The Belgrade Lakes Association Swimmer's Itch Program
The Belgrade Lakes Association will continue to monitor the occurrence of swimmer's itch in the Great Pond and Long Pond.
Past programs have pursued the capture, innoculation, and relocation of mergansers, which possibly serve as the principal hosts for the parasite that causes swimmer’s itch. In the past we have contracted with the USDA's wildlife biologist experts who was able to take our program to a professional level. Belgrade Lakes Association-trained crews have done a great job over the years, and finding this new resource will streamline the program and help assure its continued success.
We still need merganser sightings to be reported, along with any other information you can provide about their whereabouts and movement around the lake. We would also like to hear about any possible cases of swimmer's itch. If you observe mergansers, please call the Belgrade Lakes Association at (207-512-5150) or call USDA-APHIS directly at (207) 629-5181. See the photographs of common mergansers and red-breasted below to assist you in identifying these birds. Also, please contact us with any information you think will be useful to our efforts to eradicate swimmer's itch from our lake!
Common Merganser - Male Common Merganser - Female
More on Common Mergansers
Red Breasted Merganser - Male Red Breasted Merganser - Female
More on Red Breasted Mergansers
Reducing Merganser Broods on Great Pond
2009 Final Report, USDA Wildlife Services