E. Coli

In Walkerton Ontario, many people don't even drink a glass of water from the kitchen taps, for fear of their lives.This is because of Escherichia Coli (E. coli). This bacterium has been found to be the cause of over 2,300 illnesses and either the main factor or a contributing factor in 7 deaths."As far back as 1978, tests revealed fecal coliform contamination in Walkerton's wells." (Verma and Donovan, Oct. 14/00)*(1,2,3) E. coli was found in water testing, on May 15, and it was not until six days later that the citizens were informed of the deadly bacteria."The outbreak laid bare how a decade of neglect, government cutbacks and weakened controls has undermined the safety of our water supply." (Verma and Donovan, Oct. 14/00)
In May of 2000, 7 people died and approximately 2,300 became ill because of harmful bacteria called E. coli in the Walkerton water.Total coliform bacteria are a collection of relatively harmless microorganisms that live in large numbers in the intestines of man and warm and cold-blooded animals.A specific subgroup of this collection is the fecal coliform bacteria, including the Escherichia coli.These organisms have the ability to grow at elevated temperatures in the fecal material of warm-blooded animals.The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in a water system indicates that the water has been contaminated with the fecal material of man or other animals.The presence of fecal contamination is a warning that a potential health risk exists for individuals exposed to this water.Escherichia coli 0157 wasfirst identified as a serious cause of illness in humans in 1982.The bacteria binds to the intestinal lining, multiplies and produces a toxin that destroys small blooded vessels, causing clotting in the colon, kidney and brain.In two to ten days, most people develop bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps.The clotting can lead to organ failure and death.

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