Source of Alamosa salmonella a mystery
DENVER, Colorado ” Officials haven’t been able to trace the source of salmonella in drinking water that has sickened more than 200 people in the southern Colorado town of Alamosa.
The hope is that disinfecting the municipal water system by running chlorine through it will help determine how the bacteria, typically spread by food, got into the water system, Lisa Stigall, a spokeswoman with the state emergency response team, said Monday.
The plan was to start flushing the system Tuesday. The residents of the town of 8,500, roughly 160 miles south of Denver, won’t be able to drink the water until the chlorine is washed out. That could take three weeks.
No fecal matter has been found in the water, ruling out cross contamination between drinking water and wastewater. Officials have ruled out disgruntled employees and terrorism.
Stigall said the aquifer, the underground water formation that’s the town’s water source, appeared to be fine.
“There are many unkowns,” Stigall said. “Many questions will be answered as they move through this process.”
State health department spokeswoman Lori Maldonado said the number of cases was 217, with 68 confirmed through lab tests. She said nine people have required hospital treatment and one remains in the hospital.
Test results Monday confirmed earlier findings of salmonella in the city’s tap water.
The first salmonella victim began showing symptoms around March 8, and state health officials became aware of the outbreak a week later, said Ned Calonge, the health department’s chief medical officer.
Alamosa residents were told not to drink the water March 19 but that they could bathe in it if they didn’t ingest it. Neighboring communities, businesses and the Colorado National Guard have trucked in bottled water and tankers.
Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever and stomach pain. Victims typically recover on their own, but the elderly, infants and people with impaired immune systems may require treatment.
Untreated, salmonella can cause death in vulnerable victims, the health department said.
Boiling water for 15 seconds will kill the bacteria, but health officials advised residents to use bottled water for brushing teeth, washing dishes, making ice, cooking, drinking and making baby formula.
While the system is flushed and the water disinfected, municipal water can be used to flush toilets.
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