Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rainfall to blame for alarming increase in e.coli cases

Allison Bray

THE RECENT deluge of rain is being blamed for an alarming increase in the number of cases of e.coli contamination of water supplies from private wells, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre warned yesterday.

The number of cases of contamination from Verotoxigenic E.coli or VTEC doubled this year, with 139 cases reported nationwide so far, according to HPSC director Dr Darina O'Flanagan.

The majority of cases were concentrated in the south and southeast which has been particularly hard hit by flooding this summer.

The potentially dangerous fecal bacteria can be hazardous to children, the elderly or anyone with compromised immune systems.

Ensure

People who have private wells -- mainly those living on farms or in rural areas -- have been advised to check to ensure there are no cracks that could allow slurry or animal fecal matter to get into the well.

The centre is also advising householders with private wells to boil their water after heavy rains, whether it's for cooking or drinking, as a precaution.

The bacteria can cause severe diarrhoea with blood in the stool as well as abdominal cramps, although most people will recover within five to 10 days, Dr O'Flanagan said.

However, she warned that about 10pc of children under the age of five and the elderly are at risk of developing a serious condition called haemolytic uraemic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure.

"There is evidence that the increase in VTEC cases may be linked with record rainfall this summer and use of private well water. After periods of heavy rainfall, well users are advised to consider boiling water intended for consumption or taking other appropriate measures," she said.

Vulnerable

"This is particularly important if vulnerable people such as children, the elderly or immunocompromised persons are drinking the water, especially if the water colour changes or it smells or tastes differently," she added.

It's believed that about 10pc of homes are serviced by private wells.

Householders feeling concerned about the possible contamination of their wells from flooding and/or agricultural runoff, can get their water tested by local authorities as well as get advice and more information from their local Environmental Health Service centre, she said.

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