The number of cases of the infectious disease known as cyclosporiasis continues to surge in New Brunswick. The latest update from the New Brunswick Public Health department shows that up to 8,059 people are believed to have become ill from exposure to contaminated water. As of today, 893 people are known to have been hospitalized, with 42 still in the hospital. Approximately 15 percent of those who were hospitalized developed an illness that required hospitalized care.
At least 85 people have become sick with a waterborne illness — specifically, cyclosporiasis — since March, when the drinking water in New Brunswick was tainted by bacteria. PHOTO BY ALEX KAMB.
Public health officials warn the public not to drink or shower in the water that flowed from pipes that drain directly into the Rock River, because the bacteria causing the waterborne illnesses are called enterococci. Drinking untreated tap water is not a safe way to clean hands, so this is why they advise against drinking water from the Rock River.
They also advised the public not to shower in the contaminated water because it increases the likelihood of developing the diarrhea-inducing bacteria.
We recommend showering in a cooler or using a shower head that attaches to a sink that does not drain directly into the tub.
The presence of enterococci bacteria are not necessarily serious illnesses, but the bacteria are highly contagious because they are found in feces and they are often present in contaminated water supplies. Enterococci can pass through sewage systems and enter the human gastrointestinal tract. They can be transmitted when stool is ingested, even if it is not contaminated with feces.
Enterococci bacteria are found in the intestines of most people. New Brunswick water is reportedly contaminated with many types of bacteria, including enterococci, in various amounts, and therefore risks for infection from water-borne illnesses are numerous.
We are continuing to monitor the situation, and will provide updates as needed.
Photo from Alexander Kambley, and published by the New Brunswick Public Health Department
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