Los Muertos Beach is the most popular beach in Puerto Vallarta for tourists and locals alike, but there is a lot of confusion about the dangers of swimming in the waters between the Pier and Cuale River.
On March 27, 2021, just a week before the official start of Semana Santa, one of the most important tourist holidays for Puerto Vallarta, COFEPRIS (Federal Commission for the Protection Against Health Risks) of the Federal Government issued a warning for elevated levels of bacteria found at Los Muertos Beach and Cuale Beach (Olas Altas Beach) at the mouth of the Cuale River.
In March, testing from COFEPRIS indicated bacterial levels between Los Muertos Beach and Cuale Beach reached above the recommended level for recreational use. Los Muertos Beach registered 266.47, Cuale Beach registered 296.21. The acceptable amount of bacteria levels for recreational use are under 200/100ml.
Days after the announcement from COFEPRIS, the water commission (SEAPAL) in Puerto Vallarta orchestrated a news conference with local health leaders and the interim Mayor of Puerto Vallarta, Jorge Antonio Quintero Alvarado, to announce their own testing with levels at 10/100 ml, a level that would be the lowest in all of the Pacific Coast of Jalisco. The announcement from SEAPAL came mysteriously days before the Easter Holiday was to begin where the interim Mayor declared the beaches were open for Semana Santa vacationers.
When local media requested the results from the Ministry of Health, the results were unavailable to the media.
Any elevated bacterial levels in the beaches of Puerto Vallarta would first bring suspicion to SEAPAL who manages the waste management of Puerto Vallarta and recently was transferred to the power of Puerto Vallarta from the State of Jalisco.
Although SEAPAL and the local government continues to stand behind their results, the Federal Government and COFEPRIS have yet to remove the warning from their website or announce any new tests by the Federal Government agency that resulted in acceptable levels of bacteria. COFEPRIS was not present as SEAPAL’s announcement declaring the beaches are suitable for recreational use and hasn’t made any public comments about the contradicting tests.
What are the dangers of high bacterial levels at the beaches?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely populations to develop illnesses or infections after coming into contact with polluted water, usually while swimming. Fortunately, while swimming-related illnesses are unpleasant, they are usually not very serious. They require little or no treatment or get better quickly upon treatment, and they have no long-term health effects.
The most common illness associated with swimming in water polluted by sewage is gastroenteritis. It occurs in a variety of forms that can have one or more of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, stomachache, diarrhea, headache or fever. Symptoms easily confused with Montezuma’s revenge, making it difficult to identify polluted beaches as the culprit to your travel illnesses.
Other minor illnesses associated with swimming include ear, eye, nose, and throat infections. In highly polluted water, swimmers may occasionally be exposed to more serious diseases.