E-coli scare raises alarm over drinking water safety in Kochi

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), though E-coli bacteria is harmless, it can lead to abdominal cramps and diarrhoea, that may in some cases develop into bloody diarrhoea
E-coli is a subgroup of coliform bacteria, which is commonly found in natural sources of water
E-coli is a subgroup of coliform bacteria, which is commonly found in natural sources of waterPhoto | Express

KOCHI: The presence of coliform bacteria in the water samples collected from the DLF New Town Heights apartment complex, in Kakkanad, has raised concerns over the safety of drinking water sources.

E-coli is a subgroup of coliform bacteria, which is commonly found in natural sources of water
Health scare in high-end Kochi apartment; E-coli suspected as 300 residents report vomiting, diarrhoea

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), though E-coli bacteria is harmless, it can lead to abdominal cramps and diarrhoea, that may in some cases develop into bloody diarrhoea and sometimes fever and vomiting for less than 10 days in most patients.

E-coli doesn’t cause infection, said Dr Anish T S, associate professor of community medicine at Manjeri Government Medical College Hospital. “It is only an indicator. If coliform is present in water, it indicates faecal contamination and that the water is supplied without any treatment,” he said, adding that further investigations will be key to rule out the presence of other pathogens like rota and noro.

According to Dr Smriti Divakaran, associate consultant of internal medicine at Kochi Aster Medcity, "E-coli is a gut bacteria seen in the human body, and it’s not usually harmful. But some strains can cause diarrhoea and other conditions."

“Some symptoms are self-limiting and can be managed with supportive care, including rest, hydration, and by following a proper diet. If the symptoms prolong, especially among the elderly, children and people with comorbidities, consultation is a must, ” she added.

Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, chairman of the Indian Medical Association’s Kerala research cell, said that safe drinking water should be totally free of coliform bacteria, especially E-coli. “Natural river water typically contains E-coli from various sources. If tap water has a high coliform count, it suggests inadequate chlorination or breaches in the water supply system,” he said, adding that for well water, it indicates contamination from nearby septic systems, agricultural runoff, or surface water infiltration.

“It is easy to detect E-coli bacteria and eliminate it. Simple chlorination will do the trick. The way it affects people varies, and it depends on the variant and other factors,” added Dr Anish.

Effective chlorination plays an important role in eliminating E-coli from water. “Effective chlorination can eliminate bacteria and this is essential for modern public water supplies,” said Dr Rajeev.

“Infections can be prevented by using filtered and boiled water, consuming properly cooked food and ensuring hygiene,” emphasised Dr Smriti.

“Contaminated water leads to the occurrence of several waterborne diseases, including hepatitis A, cholera, typhoid, etc. These incidents also warn the public and authorities to prepare and monitor the water supply to ensure safety,” pointed out Dr Anish.

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