Crestone Eagle, April 2008:
Salmonella outbreak in Alamosa shuts
down town water supply
by Mary Lowers
The cause of the March salmonella outbreak resulting
in the shutdown of the Alamosa water system and confirmed
illness of over 200 Valley residents is still being investigated.
The City of Alamosa declared a water emergency March 19. Five
out of six water samples from Alamosa tested positive for
salmonella bacteria at the Colorado Department of Public Health
and Environment laboratory and were confirmed by the Centers
for Disease Control. A three stage flushing process for the
city water system using large amounts of chlorine was deemed
necessary. This two-week process began Tuesday, March 25.
The first cases of the disease were surfacing in the city
between March 8 and 12. Contamination of the water disrupted
life in Alamosa. Water was available at city distribution
sites and residents were encouraged to bring in water from
outside the city. Schools were closed and the economic impact
is still being measured. Gov. Bill Ritter and Sen. Ken Salazar
visited Alamosa Saturday March 22, less than twenty four hours
after the Gov. declared a state of emergency in Alamosa by
Executive Order. This will bring funding of around $300,000
to help respond to this emergency. Help from the Colorado
National Guard in the form of personnel and equipment will
be part of the state help package. Both the Sen. and the Gov.
complimented local government and emergency response teams
fortheir response to the emergency.
Putting the situation in Alamosa in a national perspective,
Sen. Salazar said the water situation reflects a problem with
infrastructure across the country particularly in rural areas,
which lack funding for maintenance and improvements. Alamosa’s
water comes from deep wells and until now has not been chlorinated
or otherwise treated. As of March 19 no salmonella cases were
reported in Saguache County. More information on this is available
Salmonella outbreaks caused by water born bacteria is rare.
People and animals become infected with Salmonella through
ingestion. Symptoms generally manifest two to three days after
exposure. Most folks will recover within five to ten days
but the elderly and small children along with people with
compromised immune systems can become seriously ill.
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