Fecal Coliform

What is it?

Fecal coliform bacteria are found in the feces of human beings and other warm-bloodedanimals. By themselves, fecal coliform bacteria do not usually cause disease.In fact, they are already inside you.

They occur naturally in the human digestive tract and aid in the digestion of food.However, when a human being or other warm-blooded animal is infected withdisease, pathogenic (disease causing) organisms are found along with fecal coliformbacteria.

Why does fecal coliform matter?

Think of high levels of fecal coliform bacteria as a warning sign that water can makeyou sick, rather than as a cause of illness. If fecal coliform counts are high(over 200 colonies/100 ml of a water sample) in a body of water, there is agreater chance that disease causing organisms are also present.

If you are swimming in waters with high levels of fecal coliform, you have agreater chance of developing a fever, nausea or stomach cramps from swallowingdisease-causing organisms, or from pathogens entering the body through cuts inthe skin, the nose, mouth, or ears.

Some examples of diseases and illnesses that can be contracted in water with highfecal coliform counts include typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastro enteritis, anddysentery and ear infections.

Fecal coliform bacteria are living organisms, unlike the other conventional waterquality parameters. The fecal coliform bacteria multiply rapidly when conditions are good for growth and die in large quantities when they are not.

How does fecal coliform get in the water?

Untreated sewage, poorly maintained septic systems, un-scooped pet waste, and farm animalswith access to streams can cause high levels of fecal coliform bacteria toappear in a water body.

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