The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool was drained on June 11 after 80 ducklings died in the water.
D.C.'s baby ducks are in the news again
, but this time for a more tragic reason. Since May 20, approximately 80 ducklings have been found dead in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. That means, on average, that about four dead ducklings have been found in the pool each day.
The deaths weren't caused by the ducklings' lack of access to the water, thanks to the recently installed duck ramps. Ironically, it was something in the water that killed the ducklings.
The National Park Service said June 9
that a water-borne parasite caused the deaths.
U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center conducted necropsies on some of the dead ducklings to find that the deaths were indeed caused by high-levels of parasitic infection. The parasite is one of the genus, Schistosoma, more commonly known as Blood Flukes. Some varieties of these parasitic flatworms can cause dangerous infections in humans, but the National Park Service reassured visitors to the memorial that this specific schistosoma would only cause a skin reaction known as "swimmer's itch," also known as cercarial dermatitis.
The risk of contracting the parasite at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is extremely low, as it is only contracted by sustained contact with affected water, such as swimming or wading. While swimming is absolutely not permitted at the reflecting pool, it has indeed happened in the past, and on hot days passersby may be tempted to stick their feet in the water. Even so, contact with the water must be sustained long enough for the parasite to enter the dermis, so human visitors to the pool are probably safe.
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The schistosomatidae parasite can cause cercarial dermatitis in humans.[/caption]
In the ducks, however, the parasite proved fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that the microscopic parasites "are released from infected snails into fresh and salt water (such as lakes, ponds, and oceans). While the parasite's preferred host is the specific bird or mammal, if the parasite comes into contact with a swimmer, it burrows into the skin causing an allergic reaction and rash."
Chemical treatments alone are not sufficient to fully reduce the parasite and snail population; so, to remedy the problem and make the the pool safe for baby ducks once again, the National Park Service announced June 9 that it will drain and scrub the pool clean to eradicate the snails that spread the deadly parasite. The Park Service said the pool will take about two days to drain. On Tuesday, June 13, crews will begin the process of cleaning the pool bottom and walls using skid steers, pumper and water trucks, and a sprayer.
The pool will begin to be refilled on Friday, June 16. After the cleaning and treatment are complete, the National Park Service said they will continue to monitor the water quality of the pool.
There has been no mention of whether or not the Capitol Reflecting Pool, where the tiny duck ramps were installed last month
, has been infected with the same parasite.
Have you visited the reflecting pool lately? Let us know in the comments below!