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Safety Report: E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in Utah County likely linked to Irrigation water, Lehi, UT, USA

11 months ago source


Lehi, Utah, United States

Update September 19, 2023

As of September 19, 2023, 1 new case of E. coli O157 was confirmed. There have been a total of 13 cases. The onset date range (date symptoms begin) was July 22 – August 31.

Confirmed PI water exposure was found in 12 out of the 13 cases investigated. The source of these cases was traced back to the use of pressurized irrigation for activities like drinking and recreational purposes. These activities included running through sprinklers, playing on slip-n-slides, bounce houses, kiddie pools, and outdoor water tables. Importantly, there is currently no evidence to suggest that the cases resulted from incidental exposure, such as playing on grass or playground structures.

The Water Department will maintain the treatment of the Sandpit Reservoir with a drip-dosing system of copper sulfate until the end of the irrigation season, which concludes on October 15. It's important to note that the treatment levels are safe for pets and livestock. However, despite these efforts, the PI water will still not meet the standards required for use as culinary drinking water.


Update August 21, 2023

An ongoing investigation into recent E. coli cases in Lehi led to the detection of E. coli O157 in samples collected from pressurized irrigation (PI) water sources in Lehi. Samples were taken from a PI reservoir and nine exposure sites on Monday, August 14. E. coli O157 was found in the sediment of the tested reservoir and at five of the exposure sites. Currently, the Utah County Health Department has reported a total of 12 cases of E. coli.

Pressurized irrigation water, unlike culinary water, is not treated, leaving it susceptible to contamination by harmful bacteria, including E. coli. The effects of E. coli can be severe, leading to a range of health issues. Pressurized irrigation water is not connected to the city culinary drinking water system. Using culinary water to water the lawn should not be used as an alternative water source.


August 4th, 2023

The Utah County Health Department, State Health Department, and City of Lehi are investigating an E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak likely linked to the use of pressurized irrigation water for drinking and play. In the last two weeks, 8 cases of E. coli have been reported in Utah's Lehi City, with 5 individuals hospitalized. Currently, all reported cases are residents of Lehi City or have close ties.

Epidemiologists are working to identify the source of infection. Preliminary investigation links the likely source of spread to using pressurized irrigation water for drinking and play. Spurred on by the severity of the situation, Mayor Mark Johnson has issued a warning to residents about the unsafe usage of irrigational water for play or drinking.

The primary concern is that the pressurized irrigation water, being untreated, is a potential carrier of harmful pathogens like E. coli, thereby posing threats to humans and pets alike.

The general public is being advised against using irrigation water for any recreational purposes or consumption. Authorities caution residents to remain vigilant for E. coli symptoms such as bloody or persistent diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Stringent hygiene practices are recommended as a preventive measure against person-to-person transmission of the infectious bacteria.

They recommend the following steps to reduce the risk of infection:
- INDIVIDUALS SHOULD NOT DRINK IRRIGATION WATER – especially if you do not know if your water source is culinary/potable or a secondary water source, such as landscape or garden irrigation. Contact your local City Public Works office with any questions about a city’s water source.
- INDIVIDUALS SHOULD NOT USE IRRIGATION WATER FOR PLAY – such as slip-and-slides, inflatable bounce houses, kiddie pools, sprinklers, etc.

In case you are experiencing E. coli symptoms as described above, it is important to report it. It can help to detect & resolve outbreaks early and prevent others from being harmed, and it enables better surveillance. If symptoms persist, seek medical care.


#lehi #utah #us #e.coli

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