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Bacterial illness in western Oklahoma leaves state officials searching for source

This computer illustration shows the E. coli bacteria in blood. An outbreak in Michigan and Ohio is under investigation as health officials try to determine the source.
Kateryna Kon
Getty Images/Science Photo Libra
This computer illustration shows the E. coli bacteria in blood.

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 byconducting 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 tomonitor wastewater for clues to the origin of the bacteria.

Last year, E. coli wasdetected in Hydro’s drinking water four times. But the state Department of Environmental Quality said it hadn’tfound any evidence that drinking water is responsible for the current outbreak.

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

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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