Health Center News

Tap Water Is the Source of a Salmonella Outbreak in Southern Colorado

When doctors at Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc. (VWHS) in southern Colorado began to see patients with salmonella symptoms earlier this month they knew something was wrong. They immediately notified the Alamosa County Nursing Service and sent samples to the lab for testing. Health officials tracked the problem to the water system in Alamosa, a town of 9,000 people.  Alamosa has a system that draws water from deep wells and the water is not chlorinated.  A new chlorinated water system was due to go on-line in three months, but that’s too late for the more than 200 people have become ill from the bad water.  The governor has now declared a state of emergency in the county, according to local news reports. VWHS is also responding to the emergency.   Action items include arming all health center sites with hand sanitizers, distributing premixed formula obtained for infants for the WIC Program, providing up-to-date information about Salmonella to patients and staff, as well as alerting the National Guard about home-bound patients who need water deliveries.  The Colorado case is a classic example of how protecting public health depends on safety net providers like Community Health Centers that are often the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to spotting public health threats.