What is E.Coli? What can you do to protect yourself and others?
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Households in the south of England have been warned their water supply could be contaminated with E.coli. Contamination has been found during routine water tests, SES Water has confirmed – and a number of areas in the southeast are at risk. A statement from SES Water said: “We are supporting our most vulnerable customers as a priority.
“We are very sorry to everyone who is being affected. Everything possible is being done to do further testing.”
Originally, they issued a statement which said: “The issue was discovered during routine tests, and our teams are working to investigate the problem and restore supplies to their usual high standards.
“While we await further test results which will confirm the scale of any contamination, customers should boil their water – and then let it cool – before using it for drinking, preparing food or cleaning their teeth.
“Pets should also be given boiled tap water. Boiled water can be kept in the fridge, and should be covered and used within 24 hours.”
Which areas are affected?
Residents of Redhill, Oxted, Limpsfield, Godstone and Sevenoaks are all affected.
SES Water has confirmed at least 400 postcodes are thought to be at risk currently – you can view the full list here.
Some 380 of these are in Surrey, with a further large amount in Kent – although this has not been fully confirmed.
Around 6,200 homes, with an unconfirmed number of businesses are also affected.
Schools may also be at risk of contaminated water, but no specific schools have been named by SES Water.
What is E.coli?
Escherichia Coli is a bacteria found in the intestines of humans and animals.
Many of its strains are harmless to humans – but some can cause serious illness, usually caused by the strain E.coli O157.
E.coli is often passed on to humans through raw and poorly cooked meat products.
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E.coli can also be spread by other foods which have been contaminated, including vegetables, unpasteurised milks and water.
Patients who suffer from the more dangerous strains can have severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhoea and vomiting.
While most who suffer will recover within weeks, some people can proceed to develop a condition called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) which, in rare cases, can cause kidney failure and even death.
Children under the age of five are most at risk of developing HUS.
However, most illnesses with E.coli are only mild and not life-threatening.
Professor Andrew Roe of the University of Glasgow said: “The strains range from virtually harmless to really very worrying.
“Some E.coli strains people were taking as probiotics for years.
“People have jumped straight to worrying about the really dangerous strains, like EO157.”
“The vast majority of E. coli strains live in their human host and rarely cause disease.
“It is likely that the E. coli in the water supply is not one of the specific dangerous types, but this will become clear in the next two to three days.”
“If it was a strain such as EO157, it would be very worrying because it has a very low infectious dose and there’s no easy treatment to give to people.”
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