Mar 25, 2008

Salmonella Outbreak in Colorado Traced to Tap Water

Officials began flushing municipal water system with chlorine

Test results have confirmed findings of salmonella in the municipal water of Alamosa, Colo. While the number of suspected salmonella cases has topped 200, officials said they have ruled out wastewater contamination, disgruntled workers and terrorism as possible sources of the bacteria, according to The Associated Press.

In response, officials began flushing the municipal water system with a chlorine solution March 25.

Residents were told to stop drinking and cooking with tap water March 19, after samples tested positive for bacterial contamination. The approximately 8,500 residents won't be able to drink the water until the chlorine is washed out—a process that could take three weeks.

The aquifer that is the town's water source appeared to be fine, said Lisa Stigall, a spokeswoman with the state emergency response team.

"There are many unknowns," Stigall said. "Many questions will be answered as they move through this process."

Nine people have required hospital treatment, and one remains in the hospital, state health department spokeswoman Lori Maldonado said.

State health officals became aware of the outbreak a week after the first victim began showing symptoms, said Ned Calonge, the health department's chief medical officer.

Gov. Bill Ritter declared a public health emergency, releasing $300,000 in aid and activating the Colorado National Guard to help distribute safe water.

The bacteria are often spread by food, and can cause diarrhea, fever and stomach pain. Victims usually recover on their own, but people with impaired immune systems may require treatment.

Alamosa is located about 160 miles south of Denver.