6 things you need to know about E. coli

Flooding has led to elevated readings of E. coli in a number of Saskatchewan lakes. Here are six things to know about the nasty bug.

High levels of harmful bacteria detected in water at many recreation areas

Signs at Regina Beach alert swimmers to elevated levels of bacteria. (CBC)

Flooding has led to elevated readings of E. coli in a number of Saskatchewan lakes. Here are six things to know about the nasty bug:

  1. All bodies of water contain E. coli at all times. When it's above a threshold of 100 colony units per 100 millilitres it's considered unsafe.
  2. When people ingest E. coli it typically will cause diarrhea, cramping and -- in some severe cases -- kidney or liver damage, sometimes even death.
  3. When it comes to E. coli in water, ingesting water is the most common route of E. coli contamination. So if you don't swallow it, nothing will likely happen.
  4. Some individuals are more sensitive to infections than others, so serious illness only affects a certain portion of the population. However, it is difficult to do susceptibility testing to determine who is more likely to get it.
  5. Fishing in waters with elevated levels of E. coli is OK. E. coli is easily killed with high heat, so one needs to simply ensure fish is well-cooked before eating.
  6. When officials assess E.coli volumes in water, they use E.coli as a signifier to determine that there are levels of other contaminants in the water too.

- Source: Microbiologist Herb Schellhorn, McMaster University

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