The actual health risks of contracting E. coli
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The actual health risks of contracting E. coli

Date: November 2, 2009
By: Max Reiss and Rebecca Berg
State Capitol Bureau
Links: See the companion newspaper story.

Intro:  This summer, the disclosure of dangerous levels of contamination at the state's largest lake dominated attention of legislators and the public. For the last several months, Max Reiss along with his newspaper partner Rebecca Berg of the Columbia Missourian, have investigated how such dangerous levels of contamination could develop without government action. In this first report, Max looks at the severity of the problem for children and the residents who live and play in the waters of the Lake of the Ozarks.
RunTime:  2:38
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: On busy summer weekends, motorboats and vacationers crowd the Lake of the Ozarks' beaches and coves.

Terry Robinson moved to the Lake of the Ozarks village of Gravois Mills nine years ago. Her home immediately turned into her extended family's favorite vacation spot.

Every summer, the Robinsons take advantage of the lake for what they think is a safe and fun time. She says she does her best to keep her small cove at the lake clean.

Actuality:  TERRY1.WAV
Run Time:  00:06
Description: "I have grandkids that swim in the lake and I don't want anything in there that shouldn't although I'm sure around this lake there are."

Despite letting her six grandkids play there, she still raises her eyebrow about dangerous substances making their way into the lake.

Actuality:  TERRY2.WAV
Run Time:  00:15
Description: "If you ride around the lake in a boat, you could see pipes going into the lake . . . I mean, you know. There's areas where you can. That's a red flag to me. I mean what going through the pipes in the lake?"

Terry has every reason to worry. This summer Missourians learned the lake had been contaminated with dangerous levels of E. coli and the state administration kept it a secret.

Eastern Missouri reported 3 deaths due to E. coli, in the past three years.

But how bad is E. coli for you really?

Dr. Michael Cooperstock is Medical Director, for the University of Missouri Health Care Infection Control Program.

Actuality:  COOP1.WAV
Run Time:  00:15
Description: "Many of them cause diarrhea in one form or another. There are forms of hepatitis that can come through the water. And that would be the two main groups. And so, it's not possible to conveniently, or easily, or cheaply monitor for all of those things."

Cooperstock points out how not all E. coli are unhealthy. Some are even required for digestion.

So far in 2009, the health department reports 97 cases of E. coli bacteria contraction in Missouri.

That number may not impress you - that's because many people who come in contact with the bacteria don't realize it since the symptoms resemble a stomach flu.

Cooperstock says simple contact with contaminated water could lead to severe illness.

Actuality:  COOP2.WAV
Run Time:  00:11
Description: "If there's contaminated water, it may contain one of those diseases and you would certainly want to tell people 'Do not go swimming in that place!' and 'Do not drink this water!' until we get it cleaned up."

As for Terry, she says she has no reason to believe there's E. coli in her Gravois Mills Cove and will continue on her daily routine, especially for when her grandkids arrive again.

Actuality:  TERRY3.WAV
Run Time:  00:14
Description: "No, because we catch fish. My husband fishes. And we eat the fish and we've never had any problem in that area. But I've never - we have a lot of turtles, things like that. I think its pretty clean myself."
 Reporting from Jefferson City with Rebecca Berg, I'm Max Reiss, Newsradio 1120, KMOX.

Intro:  With talk of a government cover-up over bacteria in the Lake of the Ozarks, one can't help but wonder how bad is E. coli for you really?
RunTime:  0:43
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: Potentially life threatening.

Dr. Michael Cooperstock with the University of Missouri Health Center explains what could happen to you if you ingest contaminated water.

Actuality:  COOP1.WAV
Run Time:  00:15
Description: "Many of them cause diarrhea in one form or another. There are forms of hepatitis that can come through the water. And that would be the two main groups. And so, it's not possible to conveniently, or easily, or cheaply monitor for all of those things."

Earlier this summer, the natural resources department and the governor's office withheld a report detailing E. coli contamination at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Over the past 3 years, Eastern Missouri attributes 2 deaths to E. coli contraction.

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Max Reiss, Newsradio 1120 KMOX.

Intro:  Lake-goers have learned to live with water quality issues at the Lake of the Ozarks - even after finding out it was contaminated with E. coli.
RunTime:  0:42
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: Terry Robinson has lived at the Lake of the Ozarks for nine years and always encourages her grandkids to swim in the cove next to her home.

Actuality:  TERRY4.WAV
Run Time:  00:02
Description: "I think it's pretty clean myself."

But she says she understands why the natural resources department wants to clean up the lake.

Robinson says there are some areas she's concerned about containing harmful bacteria like E. coli.

Actuality:  TERRY5.WAV
Run Time:  00:12
Description: "You could see pipes going into the lake . . . I mean, you know. There's areas where you can. That's a red flag to me. I mean what going through the pipes in the lake?"

The state health department reports 97 cases of E. coli contraction this year.

Reporting from the state capitol, I'm Max Reiss, Newsradio 1120, KMOX.


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