three questions about E. Coli bacteria pollution

Bottles to replace the tap. Since Friday at 5.45 p.m., the inhabitants of Châteauroux, in Indre, can no longer consume running water within a perimeter of 11 km2. The alert was given after the detection of a bacterium of the type Escherichia Coli (known as E. Coli) in the north of the city. Until the situation improves, the town hall of Châteauroux has put in place a drinking water distribution plan for the 25,000 inhabitants concerned. Franceinfo takes stock of this unwelcome incident, while France is going through a heat wave.

1Where does this bacteria come from?

Contacted by franceinfo, the Saur group, the manager of the water distribution of Châteauroux Métropole, was unable to reveal the origin of the infection with the E. Coli bacterium. Questioned on franceinfo, Gil Avérous, the mayor of Châteauroux, a mentioned “a succession of anomalies”whose starting point is “a malfunction of the chlorine diffusion system in the water”.

“The system stopped at the start of the week, the alarm did not come on, it took some time to be detected and we ended up with untreated water being distributed, which allowed this bacteria proliferate.”

Gil Avérous, mayor of Châteauroux

on franceinfo

According to the elected Republican, E. Coli bacteria “is in low presence in the water” and “the latest analyzes are rather reassuring”.

According to the Institut Pasteur, the digestive tract of cattle constitutes the natural reservoir” of this bacterium. Contamination can also occur during the milking or slaughter of these animalsexplains the institute on its website. The ruminant faeces present in the soil, in manure and in water (ponds, streams) are also a possible source of contamination.

According to the Ministry of Health, this type of water degradation is usually due poor protection or lack of maintenance of catchment works, failure to process requests or contamination of water during transport or storage in the network”.

2What do you think of the locals?

In Châteauroux, the health authorities have prohibited the consumption of tap water for at least two days, until the next analyses”explained the mayor Gil Avérous, interviewed on franceinfo. Tap water cannot be drunk or used for brushing teeth or washing food, for example.

It is also forbidden to use infant baths or showers, as children are more susceptible to E. Coli bacteria. On its site, the agglomeration of Châteauroux specifies that in the event of infection, “drinking water can cause minor stomach upset”. This water can however be used for cooking, as long as it is brought to a prolonged boil, in order to neutralize all the bacteria.

It should be remembered that some subspecies of E. Coli are more dangerous than others, such as strains called enterohaemorrhagic (EHEC). The infection usually causes bloody strains and these strains produce a powerful toxin that can cause serious illness: hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

3Are these contaminations proven?

The presence of micro-organisms in drinking water distribution networks is a rare phenomenon. According to the latest national report from the Ministry of Health, 98.2% of the French population was supplied with water that constantly met microbiological quality criteria in 2020. But city dwellers seem better off than some of the small towns. . Nearly 10% of the population served by small distribution networks (less than 500 inhabitants) did not receive good quality water at all times that year.

Above all, E. Coli infection occurs, in the vast majority of cases, by eating products like raw or undercooked meat, raw milk dairy products, “and more rarely raw vegetable products”, details the Institut Pasteur. This is what happened in February and March to more than 70 children in France, who had notably consumed frozen pizzas from the Buitoni brand. Two of them died and a 7-year-old girl recently came out of a coma.

Regardless of the source of contamination, E. Coli infection usually manifests as pain, abdominal pain or vomiting. In the event of the appearance of these symptoms, it is strongly recommended to consult a doctor. Other signals exist, such as abnormal pallor, great fatigue or even a decrease in the volume of urine, which becomes darker.

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