By Kim Hackett
Last Modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 5:43 p.m.
Enterococci harmlessly live in the digestive tracts of humans and animals but can cause rashes or serious gastrointestinal illness if ingested.
The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from stormwater runoff, animals or human sewage.
It is the first advisory for area beaches this year and officials do not know what caused a spike in bacteria. Typically, high bacteria readings come after heavy rains which pushes stormwater from drainage ditches into the Gulf.
“We're not really sure why,” said county spokeswoman Dianne Shipley. “There has been no rain, no recent sewerage spills.”
The health department monitors water quality weekly at 16 sites along Sarasota County's 34 miles of beaches.
Precautionary signs have been posted at Venice Public Beach and Turtle Beach, advising people not to go in the water. The Health Department will conduct follow-up water sampling. Test results will be available by the weekend.
No other beach areas in Sarasota County are affected by this advisory.