E. coli is a tricky bacteria because you cannot smell or taste it in your water. Unfortunately, E. coli O157:H7 is a common contaminant found in drinking water and individuals/families without a filtration system can be ingesting, cooking, washing and bathing in infected water. Contamination can result from human or animal waste in water, ill swimmers, or improper dumping of boat and industrial waste to name a few. “Health effects of E. coli bacteria can include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other symptoms. E. coli may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, some elderly and people with severely compromised immune systems” (McAllister, p.1, 2017).
“Each year in the United States, E. coli infections cause approximately 265,000 illnesses and about 100 deaths. Approximately 40 percent of these infections are caused by the strain E. coli O157:H7, a strain that is part of the shiga toxin-producing group of E. coli bacteria (STEC)”
E. coli outbreaks are mostly heard about in agricultural products such as meat and crops and are still the leading hosts of foodborne illness outbreaks. The first outbreak was reported in 1982 and was found in ground beef whereas produce was first reported in 1991.
The last E. coli outbreak from ground beef was this year in March 2019 when officials in Kentucky and Georgia brought it to the CDC’s attention. Ending on June 19th, the final count of infected persons was 209 people in 10 different states from restaurants or meat cooked at home. 29 of which were hospitalized, 2 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (kidney failure) were reported and luckily 0 deaths. Investigations concluded that “Ill people in this outbreak ate ground beef from many sources. No single supplier, distributor, or brand of ground beef was identified that could account for all of the illnesses” (CDC, P.1, 2019).
In 2017, RV-ers in Julian, CA at the KQ Ranch Campground, unknowingly ingested water that had been tested positive for E. coli. The County of San Diego, Department of Environmental Health issued a “Boil Water Order” where the CDC recommends water be brought to a rolling boil for AT LEAST one minute in low altitudes, and should be boiled for 3 minutes or more if the altitude is above 6,561 FT. (McAllister, p.1, 2017).
E. coli outbreaks happen all over the Nation as you hear so often on the news! Whether it be from Lettuce, Beef or even a popular chain fast food restaurant, the best prevention is HAND WASHING before handling/cooking raw meat and after touching raw meats. The CDC also suggests thoroughly cooking your meats and not swallowing water while swimming.
Home Water Safety
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Sources and further readings:
McAllister, Toni – Julian Campground Drinking Water System Tests Positive For E.coli, 2017
Communicable Branch – Diseases & Topics, 2019
Epidemiology Of Escherichia Coli O157:h7 Outbreaks, United States, 1982–2002 – Volume 11, Number 4-april 2005 – Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal – Cdc
Outbreak Of E. Coli Infections Linked To Ground Beef, 2019