Thursday, March 20, 2008

Do You Use Public Water?

The residents of Alamosa City in Colorado do - and it's contaminated with Salmonella.

Here's a news article from this morning's Denver Post:
Alamosa Water Tainted: At least 33 contracted salmonella, and use of bottled water is urged

Here's the Colorado Department of Public Health's News Release:
Bottled Water Advisory Issued for Alamosa Residents

Residents have been advised not to drink the water. Boiling the water is not good enough. There are 33 confirmed cases and 46 suspected cases of Salmonella in the City so far.

This is not a good story. Lettuce you can clean (maybe). But, if it's in the water? Ouch.

Okay, I thought, I could use bottled water for a day or two ... but at least a week! Ouch, again.

Then I read the Colorado Health Department's guidance list:
  • At home, use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, making ice, washing dishes and for adding to any food especially for the preparation of baby formula.
  • Home-style/domestic dish washing machines are adequate for sanitizing if the heat drying cycle is applied.
  • Bathing and showering in the water should present no problems for healthy individuals. Exercise caution not to ingest water during such activities.
  • No commercial food preparation should be done unless approved by the local public health agency.
    Consider using prepared food from an alternative approved source.
  • Use only prepackaged foods that do not require any additional preparation other than heating in its original container.
  • Frequently wash hands and apply hand sanitizer after washing.
  • Do not touch food with bare hands. Use disposable gloves.
  • Use frozen/canned produce.
  • Purchase packaged potable ice.
  • Do not use water to wash plates, cups and utensils. Use only single-service utensils, such as paper plates, napkins, cups, plastic spoons, forks and knives.
Use only prepackaged foods - No fresh produce ... for at least a week! Ouch one more time.

One more ouch - Use only disposable utensils, again, for at least a week.

I'm thinking all the inconvenience and added cost is worth avoiding infection, but talk about disruptions. I can't imagine how this would play out in a city with tens of thousands depending on the water supply.

A question: Say you worked for the health department and you needed to get the message out to Everyone! Immediately! not to drink the water, that water coming out of their tap right this minute. How would you go about it? What exactly would you do? (I've posed this question to groups before. People are pretty darn creative.)
Thanks to Marler for the info.
Thanks to Melinda for the embedded Newsweek link suggesting washing produce might not be enough: The Borne Contamination: Is washing produce in tap water enough to make it safe, or should we be doing more?

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