The recent outbreak of Escherichia coli contaminated lemonade made with well water has drawn our attention to the high risk of contamination of our ground water supply. The causative agent of the outbreak was E.coli 0157:H7, a deadly strain of the organism. It was first isolated in 1982, and the first major outbreak occurred in 1993 as a result of contamination of hamburger at a fast food restaurant. This organism is a normal contaminant of the intestinal tract of dairy and beef cattle. The infection, once contracted, may spread easily from person to person because the infection dose is low. Other known sources of the infection have included: unpasteurized apple cider, raw milk, raw vegetables, sausage, roast beef, salads and mayonnaise.

The most common complications of the disease include: hemorrhagie colitis (blood in the stool) and hemolytic uremic syndrome (kidney malfunction). These symptoms are primarily due to the presence of a toxin called a verotoxin. The diarrhea may be non-bloody and additional symptoms include: abdominal cramps and lack of a fever. The disease has also been linked with a neurological disease in older adults called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). Antibiotic therapy has not been shown to be safe and effective.

A simple procedure called the coliform test may be run on your water. This test includes total coliform and E.coli analysis. We would recommend that you have your water analyzed twice yearly for these organisms.