EPA offers the public information on E.coli

Following outbreaks of E.coli in three states in the last two months, the EPA is making information available about the bacteria's source and methods of transmission.

The most recent case is an outbreak of 804 suspected cases of E.coli 0157.H7 infection in northern New York state. Officials have confirmed 112 cases thus far, with 64 people hospitalised, 11 children having developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome – a severe complication – and two deaths. The outbreak has been traced to a well contaminated with animal faeces that supplied water for drinking and cooking at the Washington County Fair, near Albany, New York.

The Washington State Fair outbreak was confirmed by the New York State Department of Health on 14 September, only 10 days after a similar outbreak in Illinios. More than 300 people were infected with E.coli after attending a concert and barbeque near Springfield. A total of 22 hospitalisations have been reported. Officials suspect the contamination came from either beef or other food served at the event, or from a water supply.

On the other side of the country, an entire lake has been closed to all recreational activity because officials suspect it is the source of an E.coli outbreak affecting approximately thirty people, mainly children. Battle Ground Lake, in Washington State, has been closed while officials investigate the outbreak that resulted in seven hospitalisations, including three cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

In response to public concerns, the EPA has added an E.coli page to its safe water website with information regarding the three outbreaks, findings from the Centre for Disease Control as well as general information on transmission and protection. In addition, EPA’s drinking water hotline staff are now able to answer questions from the public regarding possible contamination of water supplies. The EPA’s drinking water hotline number is 1-800-426-4791.

Detailed information on diagnosis and treatment of E.coli infection is being compiled for distribution to health care workers and the EPA has stated that it will soon provide guidelines to the states regarding applications for extra funding for E.coli water monitoring programmes.

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