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Monday, May 10, 2010
Anyone who pays attention to the news already knows that E Coli outbreaks happen in the US about once a year or so. Generally, these outbreaks are caused by contaminated vegetables (lettuce, spinach, peppers, etc). But many people do not know that E Coli can live and thrive in water as well as on land. This article examines some of the background information you need to know about E Coli. Our second article in this series, "How to Treat E Coli in Drinking Water" examines how you can eliminate this health hazard from your drinking water.

E Coli is shorthand for Escherichia coli. It is a coliform (ie, coli) bacterium that is found in the intestines of both animals and humans. When animals or humans defecate in or near water sources, the E Coli bacteria can get into the water, and can then be ingested by those drinking from this water source. Another common way that E Coli can be introduced into a water sources is through sewage discharges into creeks, streams, rivers, etc.

While the above are the most common ways for E Coli to be introduced into water supplies, they are not the only avenues of introduction. Heavy rainfall and ice and snow melts can also deliver the bacteria into water sources as runoff.

It should be noted that while E Coli is most often found in surface water, it can also be found in ground water as well. If contaminated fecal matter on the surface is diluted by rainwater or snow melt, it can leech down into the soil and go into underground water supplies. This is important to remember if you get your drinking water from aquifer or well.

E Coli comes in hundreds of different strains and not all of them are hazardous to our health. One of the most dangerous strains, however, is E. Coli 0157:H7. Individuals who ingest this particular strain of E Coli can be become very sick with symptoms including abdominal pain and cramps, diarrhea that may or may not be bloody in nature, and a general sense of malaise. Fever may or may not be present.

This particular E Coli infection can be very serious for children under 5 as well as to elderly individuals and those with compromised immune systems. It can lead to kidney failure and other severe health issues. In some cases, it can be fatal. The medical term for this malady is hemolytic uremic syndrome. Unfortunately, hemolytic uremic syndrome is the main cause of sudden kidney failure in children in the US.

As you can see, E Coli contamination is nothing you want to mess with or have your family exposed to. The good news is destroying E Coli in drinking water is fairly easy to do if the proper chemicals are used in the proper manner. Please read our next article in this series, "How to Treat E Coli in Drinking Water" to learn how to protect your family from this dreaded disease.

by: Chris Tracey


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