What is E. coli?
Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a type of fecal coliform bacteria which are found in animal and human waste. Finding E. coli bacteria in the water indicates recent fecal contamination. Although not all E. coli strains cause disease, the presence of E. coli indicates the possible presence of other disease-causing microorganisms.
Where does E. coli come from?
Possible sources for E. coli include fecal matter from livestock, pets or wildlife; sewage coming from failing residential septic systems and wastewater treatment facilities; or applied fertilizer such as manure.
What are the potential dangers associated with E. coli contamination?
As E. coli levels in water increase, the potential health risk from exposure to other disease-causing organisms also increases. These pathogens can result in a variety of symptoms such as gastrointestinal illnesses (including gas, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite), urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Exposure of wounds to contaminated water may result in infection and extended healing time.
In mild to moderate cases, one may not associate their symptoms with recent water consumption or water related recreational activities – especially if the symptoms don’t begin until days later. Young children, the elderly, those with weakened immune systems and pets are at a higher risk of experiencing illness and more serious complications caused by harmful E. coli bacteria and associated pathogens.