Take precautions to avoid E. coli bacteria and stay safe in the water

The dictionary defines a germaphobe as any person who is obsessed with cleanliness and defeating bacteria. By that definition, we should all strive to be germaphobes

The dictionary defines a germaphobe as any person who is obsessed with cleanliness and defeating bacteria. By that definition, we should all strive to be germaphobes — particularly when it comes to protecting ourselves from dangerous strains of E. coli bacteria.

E. coli bacteria live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless, but a few nasty strains can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Every year in the United States, at least 2,000 people are hospitalized and about 60 die from E. coli infections and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

We can be exposed to dangerous strains of E. coli bacteria in many ways — from kitchen countertops, compost piles, contaminated food and beverages, even swimming or canoeing in a local waterway.

The main thing to remember to prevent illness is to wash your hands before eating (all the time) and before and after using the bathroom (all the time).

If you are planning some fun in water, keep in mind that bacteria and viruses might be lurking in that water, just waiting to make you sick.

Don’t swim in water that looks discolored, murky or smells unpleasant. Those are signs to stay away. If you are swimming, wading, fishing or boating in a river, stream or creek, take a shower as soon as possible afterward. If you are feeling ill with diarrhea or vomiting or have an open wound or infection, don’t take the risk. Stay out of the water.

Enjoy our waterways, but be sure to take precautions. To be extra safe, take the time to visit the websites of the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection and the Kentucky Division of Water for advisories before swimming in any local river, stream or creek.


Making a difference …

After a canoe trip down Floyds Fork Creek in 1991, Sheron Lear, supervisor, CPA Lab, a part of Norton Healthcare, knew she had to do something to help the environment. At that time, the creek had become a dumping ground for used appliances, mattresses, tires and more. Lear and a friend cofounded the Floyds Fork Environmental Association to protect, preserve and conserve the 62 miles of Floyds Fork Creek that flows through Henry, Oldham, Shelby, Jefferson and Bullitt counties in Kentucky.

Since its founding, the Floyds Fork Environmental Association has made substantial progress in improving the environment through its many activities and advocacy efforts, including an annual Floyds Fork Creek Sweep, field trips for schoolchildren, bike and hike events and birdwatching walks.

Lear and Teena Halbig, cofounders of the Floyds Fork Environmental Association, received the 2014 Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission’s Earth Day Award for their significant contributions to the environment over more than two decades. 


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