E.coli bacteria has been detected in the water supply inside the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, according to an advisory released by the National Park Service (NPS).
The announcement on Friday warned visitors at Phantom Ranch, a lodge at the bottom of the southern end of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, to boil water before using it.
“These bacteria can make you sick and are a particular concern for people with weakened immune systems,” the NPS stated.
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“Bacterial contamination can occur when increased run-off enters the drinking water source (for example, following heavy rains),” it also said.
“It can also happen due to a break in the distribution system (pipes) or a failure in the water treatment process.”
All water should be boiled for one minute per 1,000 feet of elevation to kill bacteria before using it for drinking, brushing teeth, washing dishes, making ice or cooking, the NPS advised.
Bottled water can also be used as an alternative.
At the current time, no other areas outside Phantom Ranch have been found to have E.coli.
What is E.coli?
E.coli — officially known as Escherichia coli — is a type of bacteria found in the environment, foods and intestines of people and animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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Some strains can cause people to become sick, with symptoms including but not limited to severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), vomiting, respiratory illness, urinary tract infections and pneumonia.
Symptoms usually begin three to four days after eating or drinking something containing E.coli — but can start as soon as one day or up to 10 days later.
While most people will recover on their own within five to seven days, some people experience severe illness that requires medical care.
The CDC recommends seeing a health care provider for “diarrhea that lasts for more than three days or diarrhea that is accompanied by a fever higher than 102˚F, bloody diarrhea, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine.”
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Although rare, some people with E. coli can develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can lead to kidney failure or other life-threatening complications, per the CDC.
Symptoms of HUS include extreme fatigue, decreased urination and loss of color in the face and lower eyelids.
The National Park Service stated in its announcement that it is taking steps to control the situation, including making “control system adjustments” and restarting the chlorination process.
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“We are increasing sampling for coliform bacteria to determine the source of the contamination,” the announcement said.
“We will inform you when tests show no bacteria, and you no longer need to boil your water.”
People are encouraged to share the advisory with anyone in the area who may be exposed to this water.
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For guidelines on reducing the risk of infection by microbes, people can call the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.