With thousands facing boil water advisories, doctors warn of health risks from contaminated water

With thousands facing boil water advisories, doctors warn of health risks from contaminated water

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - With more than a hundred thousand people in multiple cities under boil water advisories Monday night, health care professionals say they’re concerned about the dangers of residents drinking potentially contaminated water.

Not one of the cities currently under boil water advisories, Jackson, Canton or Vicksburg, has said it found contaminants in the water supply at this point but they’re still advising people to boil water for at least one minute before drinking.

In Jackson’s case, public works director Charles Williams said they have not yet begun testing samples from the water’s distribution system yet, but that is expected in the coming days.

If those contaminants like E. coli or salmonella are there, they can cause gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea that, if untreated, could lead to dehydration and a hospital visit.

“Even some viruses like rotovirus that can make you very sick. I mean, they’re all gastrointestinal, you know, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea,” said pediatrician Dr. Geri Weiland. “Even though it doesn’t look like it, you may be consuming somebody’s waste in your water.”

That waste can creep into your drinking water when pressure drops, causing suction in the line which draws sewage into the supply. Water main ruptures and breaks can also introduce bacteria into tap water, too.

Weiland said children and older folks are most susceptible here. That’s why she and other health care professionals want to remind residents in these affected areas to boil their water before drinking, even if the water looks clear.

Residents who live in the affected areas are asked not to drink, cook with or brush their teeth with untreated water. Taking a shower is generally considered safe, Weiland said.

“If you have any open sores, you need to be careful that you clean those or use an antibiotic ointment afterwards,” Weiland said.

Medical professionals say if you end up with fever or vomiting for more than a day, call your doctor.

“What you really should remember to tell your physician is that if you start with these symptoms, and you may have ingested water that wasn’t properly treated, to be sure you tell us,” Weiland said. “Sometimes people will say, ‘Oh, it’s just a virus.’ But if we know that you may have consumed possibly contaminated water, we’re going to go ahead and do the culture and check the bloodwork and that kind of thing.”

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