Lehi officials urge people not to drink or relax in irrigation water

Six confirmed cases of E. coli infection have also been reported in Cache County.

(Janice Haney Carr/CDC via AP) This 2006 colorized scanning electron microscope image, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows E. coli bacteria strain O157:H7 producing a potent toxin called can cause diseases. The city of Lehi is urging residents not to drink or recuperate in pressurized irrigation water amid an E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least 12 people.

The city of Lehi is urging residents not to drink or play in pressurized irrigation water amid an E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least a dozen people.

City officials on Monday sent letters to 26,000 households announcing that E. coli 0157 had been detected at Sandpit Reservoir and five exposure sites. At this time of year, most of the pressurized irrigation water is directed to the Sandpit reservoir and then pumped to other storage reservoirs around Lehi, city officials said.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the particular E. coli strain causes serious intestinal infections in humans.

The city’s investigation linked the outbreak to the use of pressurized irrigation water for drinking and recreational activities, such as playing with sprinklers, the letter said. Pressurized irrigation water is used for firefighting, lawn and crop irrigation, and other purposes. Unlike feed water, it is not treated, which can make it susceptible to harmful bacteria.

As of Thursday, the Utah County Health Department had reported 12 cases and no current hospitalizations. The outbreak was reported earlier this month. On Aug. 4, the Utah Department of Health said in a news release that at least five people had been hospitalized due to the severity of their symptoms.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea (often with blood), abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and vomiting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some cases can lead to kidney failure, particularly in the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems.

To help disable and lower concentrations of E. coli bacteria in the water, teams from the city’s water department are “shocking” key Sandpit reservoirs and Low Hills reservoirs with a sodium copper liquid, said Jeanteil Livingston, communications manager at Lehi City.

This is the first time the city has had to rehabilitate its pressure irrigation system. “It’s a test run; You don’t know how it will work. They hope it’s effective,” Livingston said. Even after treatment, some bacteria will remain in the water, she said, and it will never reach the same level of safety as feed water.

The city urged residents not to water their lawns or use pressurized water to irrigate pools, bouncy castles, or other recreational activities. Residents should also avoid consuming uncooked produce from home gardens that have been irrigated with pressure irrigation water, as washing may not remove all bacteria. Cooked products are safe to eat because the cooking process can eliminate the risk of E. coli infection, the letter said.

Residents should keep an eye out for children playing on lawns that have been irrigated with pressurized irrigation water, the letter said, and be careful not to put their hands or anything that touched the lawn in shut up E. coli can be present on a lawn even if it is dry, the letter said. Therefore, anyone who touches the lawn or its soil should wash their hands after contact.

E. coli in Cache County

Six confirmed cases of E. coli infection in Cache County have been reported to the Bear River Health Department as of Monday, according to a news release.

The health department is investigating the cause of the cases and is also working with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services and the Utah State Laboratory to determine if Cache County’s cases are related. “Preliminary results indicate a possible accumulation of cases,” the press release said.

“While we are actively working to determine the source of this outbreak, there is no particular risk to the general public at this time,” said Jordan Mathis, health officer for the Bear River Health Department. “However, we advise residents to practice good hygiene, such as washing hands thoroughly, especially after using the toilet and before handling food.”

E. coli bacteria are commonly found in the intestinal environment of humans and animals. Most strains are harmless, but some can cause serious illnesses, the release said. It’s unclear which E. coli strain was reported in Cache County.

The Bear River Health Department urged people to take the following safety measures:

  • Wash hands with soap and water before cooking and eating, after using the toilet and after handling animals.

  • Be sure to cook the meat thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria.

  • Avoid consuming raw milk and undercooked meat.

  • Wash vegetables and fruits from the garden thoroughly before eating them.

  • See a doctor if you have symptoms of E. coli infection.

Justin Scaccy

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