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Bacterial illness in western Oklahoma leaves state officials searching for source

A rendering of an E. coli cell. It's a pink oval shape with many hair-like protrusions coming off in all directions. Other types of cells are out of focus in the background.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
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E. coli bacteria can cause stomach sickness and other symptoms.

Some areas of western Oklahoma are experiencing an uptick in illnesses caused by E. coli and other bacteria.

Those bacteria can cause symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and muscle aches. That’s what people in Hydro—about 60 miles west of Oklahoma City— and its surrounding towns started experiencing a few weeks ago.

The Oklahoma Department of Health said it’s working with local partners to pinpoint the source of the sickness in Caddo and Custer Counties.

Residents can help by conducting an electronic survey about their recent illnesses and activities, so they can look for patterns. The Health Department is also working with the University of Oklahoma to monitor wastewater for clues to the origin of the bacteria.

Last year, E. coli was detected in Hydro’s drinking water four times. But the state Department of Environmental Quality said it hadn’t found any evidence that drinking water is responsible for the current outbreak.

Still, the state Health Department told KFOR-TV last week that they recommend residents boil their water as a precaution.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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