Residents must follow strict steps to avoid E.Coli infections

Messrs Tim Denny and Tonny Mabizela (DA councillors) discuss the looming environmental crisis caused by sewage polluting local waterways.

Dangerously high levels of the bacteria commonly known as E.Coli, have been found in no less than five different waterways in Govan Mbeki Municipality.

The most likely cause of this contamination is raw, untreated human waste flowing into streams, rivers and dams in eMbalenhle, Leandra, Leslie and Lebohang.

A lack of infrastructure, coupled with overcrowding in informal settlements and broken down sewage treatment plants and pump stations, have caused a flood of sewage to flow into these waterways.

The Govan Mbeki Municipality was contacted for urgent comment on this matter, but have yet to answer any of the burning questions regarding this health crisis.

For now residents have to fend for themselves and the most vulnerable residents will be most harshly affected by the contaminated water.

Food and water that have been infected with E.Coli do not not look or smell contaminated, but nevertheless the dangerous germs can still be present.

The best way to ensure you do not become infected with this dangerous bacteria, is to avoid any contact with contaminated water.

Many residents however use water from streams and rivers to clean, wash clothes, bathe, cook and drink and have no alternative sources of clean water.

The E.Coli bacteria only dies when water is boiled and then left in a clean, bacteria free container to cool off before drinking, so residents are urged to boil all water used for household purposes before using it.

Food like meat, eggs and dairy must also be cooked thoroughly at temperatures exceeding 70 degrees Celsius, and fruit and vegetables that will be eaten raw must be washed with a disinfectant soap and water and dried before being eaten.

Residents must avoid swimming in streams and rivers, wash their hands thoroughly with disinfectant soap after going to the bathroom and avoid touching animal feces.

Symptoms of E.Coli infections vary greatly and can be as light as nausea and diarrhea which clear up in a few days, to kidney failure and toxic shock syndrome.

In children and the elderly, the initial signs of E.Coli infections include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, fever and vomiting.

E.Coli can also cause severe dehydration and kidney failure, urinary tract infections and life threatening toxic shock syndrome which can lead to heart failure and death.

If you suspect that you have been infected by E.Coli, speak to your doctor or go to the emergency unit.

The E.Coli bacteria cannot be killed by medication or even antibiotics, but doctors can help you with supportive care and help lessen the symptoms while the bacteria passes through your body.

You should avoid taking anti-diarrhea or anti-vomiting medication as this will only prolong your illness and keep the bacteria in your body longer.

Your doctor will advise you to rest, stay hydrated and allow your immune system to fight off the bacteria if it can.

In severe cases and with severe dehydration and loss of blood through bloody diarrhea and vomiting, you may need to have a blood transfusion and stay in the hospital for an extended period.


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Willemien Aukema

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