Questions raised over E. coli deaths

Residents of the Walkerton area want to know how E. coli bacteria got into their drinking supply, and why they weren't warned at first sign something was wrong.

According to local residents, people started getting sick last Wednesday. The first warnings not to drink the water weren't issued until Sunday night, even though the municipality had already started flushing out the system.

Mayor of the Municipality of Brockton, David Thomson, spoke to reporters Wednesday afternoon, offering his condolences to the families of the three people killed. He also assured the public the water will not be turned back on until it is completely clear and clean.

Parents of children who are five years of age or younger are being asked to bring them in for tests, even if they show no signs of being sick.

E. coli symptoms include fever, severe cramping, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

It can take from two to 10 days for symptoms to appear in people who are infected. It takes about a week to recover.

Health officials are advising people in the Walkerton area to boil drinking water for at least five minutes, or to drink bottled water. Anything made with water, such as baby formula or orange juice, should be thrown out.

The province's environment ministry is testing the water supply, trying to determine the source and state of the contamination.

Officials aren't sure how the outbreak started. There was extensive flooding in the area during a heavy rainstorm nearly two weeks ago. It is possible that sewage, or manure from farmers' fields, leaked into the wells.

E. coli can be fatal in about three per cent of cases, and causes kidney damage in 10 per cent of people who become infected.