Understanding Your Reports - Feacal E. Coli

What is it?

They are bacteria that live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals (humans, pets, farm animals, and wildlife).  Escherichia coli commonly abbreviated E. coli) is a Gram-negative, facultatively anaerobic, rod-shaped bacterium of the genus Escherichia that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms (endotherms). Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in their hosts, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls due to food contamination. The harmless strains are part of the normal flora of the gut, and can benefit their hosts by producing vitamin K2, and preventing colonization of the intestine with pathogenic bacteria. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is part of the group of fecal coliforms.

How does it affect the environment;

  • In themselves, coliforms/E. Coli generally do not pose a danger to people or animals, but they indicate the presence of other disease-causing bacteria, such as those that cause typhoid, dysentery, hepatitis A, and cholera. Both coliforms and disease-causing bacteria live in water. But unlike coliforms, disease-causing bacteria generally do not survive long enough in the water, outside the body of animals, to be detected. Cells are able to survive outside the body for a limited amount of time, which makes them ideal indicator organisms to test environmental samples for fecal contamination. Sampling and testing for the presence of disease-causing bacteria is therefore difficult; instead, scientists and public health officials consider the presence of coliforms an  indicator of disease bacteria in recreational, drinking and flood waters. 
  • Fecal - oral transmission is the major route through which pathogenic strains of the bacterium cause disease.

How can it be reduced?

  • Testing water for contamination especially if the water sources are not adequately treated.
  • Avoiding use of combined sewer systems. Combined sewer systems do experience overflows from flood water ad this ends up releasing human waste sewer into the environment and into rivers, streams, wells and other water sources.
  • Maintaining drainage systems to avoid leaking septic tanks.
  • Testing effluent water to ensure it is properly treated before releasing it into the environment. 
  •  Flood water should not be swallowed and all mouth contact should be minimized and avoided where possible. Also, you can become ill if you have an open cut, wound, or abrasion that comes into contact with water contaminated with certain organisms. You may experience fever, redness, and swelling at the site of an open wound, and you should see a doctor right away if possible. However, the best thing is to avoid any contact with contaminated water when you have an open wound.
  • In the event of flooding, Emergency responders and the public should avoid direct contact with standing water when possible. In the event that you come into contact with flood waters, it is strongly recommended that you apply soap and water to clean exposed areas. 

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