E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, is a type of fecal coliform bacteria commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans. If ingested, this bacteria can result in serious sickness and even death. When E. coli contaminates your drinking water, one should either avoid drinking it completely, or render it safe by boiling the water or purifying it with a high quality water filter.
During rainfalls, snow melts, or other types of precipitation, E. coli may be washed into creeks, rivers, streams, lakes, or ground water. When these waters are used as sources of drinking water and the water is not adequately treated, E. coli may be inadvertently ingested.
Most of the hundreds of strains of E. coli are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. However E. coli O157:H7 is an exception; as it produces a powerful toxin. Evidence but not proof of ingestion includes severe bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, or non-bloody diarrhea. Frequently, a fever will not be one of the symptoms.
In 2%-7% of those infected with E. coli O157:H7, the bacterium will also cause hemolytic uremic syndrome. This is evident when the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. This condition is a life threatening and may require blood transfusions and kidney dialysis as treatments.
Symptoms usually appear within two to four days, but could take longer. With this strain of E. coli, antibiotics should be avoided as they can some exacerbate kidney problems. Recovery within five to ten days usually follows without antibiotics. Any person who has sudden bloody diarrhea should get their stool tested for E. coli O157:H7 immediately. Children under five, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems are the most vulnerable.
You might ask, “Is my drinking water vulnerable to E. coli O157:H7?” Public water is by law constantly monitored for all bacterial contamination. However, those using private sources and wells for water should be cautious, especially when farm animals are present, as these sources typically do not have routine E. Coli monitoring. The addition of chlorine, or treatment of water with ultra-violet light or ozone will kill or inactivate this strain of E. coli.
If you have determined that your drinking water is contaminated, then one of the the safest procedures is to boil your water. In addition, there are high quality water purifiers on the market that will also remove E. Coli. One of these water purifiers is the Berkey water filter. With the ability to remove E. coli bacteria to a log 7 degree, or 99.99999%, the Berkey water filter will render contaminated drinking water safe to drink. Purchasing a Berkey water purifier is a relatively inexpensive way to provide peace of mind for you and your family.