Escherichia coliform (E. coli, for short) is a bacterium present in fecal material, both animal and human. In surface waters, it is can be an indicator of the presence of sewage, which may contain other, potentially more harmful pathogens.
E. coli is used as a criterion by the Environmental Health Association to determine the safety of full body contact with surface water (what generally happens when one goes swimming). To find out how the health department uses E. coli data to determine the safety of swimming, click here. Common ailments encountered when swimming in sewage-contaminates surface water may include viral infections, as well as ear, nose and throat infections.
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