ASC Water Update 2:30 p.m.

(03-21-2008)

Congressman John Salazar said Governor Ritter's office expects this afternoon to declare a state of emergency in the City of Alamosa related to the outbreak of salmonella in the community.

"We are in a state of crisis," he said at a 1 p.m. press conference conducted by the Alamosa County Nursing Office Friday. City and County officials declared a crisis situation Friday morning.

Officials said flushing of the city water system would not begin before next week. Further details are expected to be announced at the County's Incident Command briefing Friday at 6:30 p.m. CITY WATER IS NOT BEING SHUT OFF AT THIS TIME. Only bottled water should be consumed from the time the flushing of the system begins until further notice from city and state officials.

"At this point, we are continuing all campus operations and regularly scheduled classes," said Dr. Michael Mumper, Adams State provost. Changes in that status and updates on the water situation will be posted at ASC Water

Alamosa County Nursing Director Julie Geiser said three criteria must be in place prior to flushing the system:

  1. Obtaining proper equipment for flushing
  2. Assuring a sustainable water supply
  3. Giving community members 24-36 hour prior notification.

Geiser said to date there are 47 confirmed cases of salmonella sickness and an additional 76 cases that meet the clinical criteria. Seven people are hospitalized, and there have been no deaths. She expects infections to continue to rise for at least a few days. Geiser emphasized the importance of hand washing and taking other precautions listed below to prevent person-to-person infection. She explained that individuals could continue to "shed bacteria" for up to months after recovering themselves.

According Alamosa Police Department Assistant chief, John Michalke, it is estimated the city's bottled water advisory will last for several days, possibly up to two weeks or more.

Water Distribution

Students living in campus housing may pick up bottled water from the hall front desks. This is for students only; ASC is not a water distribution point for the community at large.

Free bulk or bottled water is being distributed at four locations from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. daily: the parking lot south of the SLV Regional Medical Center (Second St. & Blanca) nearest the college, the former K-Mart building on 53 Craft Drive behind Burger King, Boyd Park at 11th and Hunt Street, and Sunrise Park, 303 McKinney in East Alamosa. THERE IS NO LIMIT ON WATER FOR THOSE WHO BRING THEIR OWN CONTAINERS, but bottled water will be limited to 1 gallon per person per day. Residents are encouraged to bring one-gallon containers and to recycle plastic containers.

According Alamosa Police Department Assistant chief, John Michalke, it is estimated the city's bottled water advisory will last for several days, possibly up to two weeks or more. It is anticipated that enough water will be available for the next two weeks.

Campus Food Service

ASC Food Service (Sodexho) was approved for operation by the Consumer Protection Division of hte Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The cafeteria has discontinued use of municipal water and is preparing all food with bottled water, in accordance with public health requirements. Sodexho currently has enough bottled water for five days of food service for up to 400 students; more water has been ordered, and that status will be updated. The Food Service is taking all necessary precautions and is stocking bottled water, juice, and pop. Paper and plastic plates and utensils are being used. Cafeteria options may be temporarily limited. Adams State is providing hand sanitizer in all campus restrooms, including residence halls.Water Advisory

Area residents and visitors are advised to immediately stop using tap water from the city's water system for drinking and cooking and to begin using bottled water until further notice. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Wednesday ordered the city of Alamosa to issue a bottled water advisory for Alamosa residents due to an outbreak of Salmonella in the community.

Safe water usage

State consumer protection officials provided the following guidance during the bottled water order:

  • Boil any water from the city's municipal water system. Water to be consumed should be brought to a rolling boil, but there is no need to boil longer than 15 seconds. ONCE THE CITY BEGINS FLUSHING THE WATER LINES, BOILING WILL NOT BE ADEQUATE. Advisories will be issued well in advance of this time.
  • 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.

Other safety precautions

  • WASH YOUR HANDS after going to the bathroom, before fixing food, or before wiping children's faces.
  • Wash hands after changing a baby's diaper.
  • Cook poultry, meats and eggs thoroughly. Heat destroys the bacteria.
  • Wash the cutting board and knife very well before cutting anything else, especially if you are handling uncooked poultry or meat.
  • Wash hands after handling pets or cleaning pet cages, and keep children away from animal droppings.
  • People who are sick should not prepare food if it can be avoided. Those who prepare food outside the home should not return to work until your doctor tells you it's okay.

Salmonella Symptoms

All students, faculty and staff who exhibit symptoms of salmonella sickness are asked to see their health care provider and to call the Student Affairs office, 587-7221.

Salmonella is a common bacteria than can cause serious illness. It often comes from contaminated food, but can come from contaminated water. Individuals experiencing diarrhea for two days or more, bloody diarrhea, diarrhea with fever or other concerns, should consult their health care provider. Salmonella symptoms usually begin about one to three days after exposure and include diarrhea, fever and stomach pain. Illness usually lasts four to seven days and most people will recover without medical treatment, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., as long as they stay hydrated. Geiser recommended drinking Pedialyte, soups, and juices for hydration, and discouraged sports drinks and soda pop.

Those who suspect they've contracted the bacteria are urged to see a health care provider. However, the diarrhea can be severe, and the person may be ill enough to require hospitalization. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems may have a more severe illness. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites, and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The only way to know if salmonella is present when you have diarrhea is by seeing your doctor who may order a stool culture.

Information about salmonella is available at the COHELP line 1-877-462-2911. People can call for recorded information between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m., Monday through Friday. Additional information is available from The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and The Centers for Disease Control.

City will flush system

When the flushing of the municipal water system begins, boiling water will not be adequate to protect the public from consuming the water.

Officials from the Colorado Division of Emergency Management and the Emergency Preparedness and Response Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are working with commercial water bottlers and suppliers to help provide bottled water to the community.

State officials also will be working with local officials to flush the city's municipal water system and to complete follow-up water sampling to determine when the water is again safe to drink. It is estimated it may take a week or longer to flush and disinfect the system.

The order was issued after local water sampling test results were positive for bacterial contamination. Residents served by the Price East Alamosa drinking water system that is served by the city's municipal water system also are advised to drink bottled water.

Salmonella often comes from contaminated food, but can come from contaminated water. As part of the bottled water order, restaurants are urged to serve bottled water and use ice made from either bottled water or purchased from an ice supplier. Use of food and beverage equipment directly connected to the public water source is discouraged.

Water quality officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment advised locals to use bottled water for at least a week or until notified that the city's water system has been flushed and is free of contaminants.

By Julie Waechter