Colorado Town Sued Over Salmonella-Tainted Water

Late last year we wrote that the <"">Salmonella outbreak in Alamosa, Colorado was the result of a faulty drinking water storage tank and animal waste. A report from the state of Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment indicates that the city of Alamosa neglected to act on a long-standing recommendation to inspect a deteriorating drinking water tank, said 9News, previously. The recommendation was made years prior to the 2008 Salmonella outbreak that caused hundreds to fall ill and resulted in one death.

According to the report, said 9News, animal waste was the likely culprit in an in-ground storage tank contamination that was “identified as a problem in 1997.” In addition to the fatality, the outbreak in 2008 sickened 442, according to reports; however, state health officials believe the number was closer to 1,300 residents—of the some 8,900, residents, said 9News. Of those sickened, about 40 percent were infants, said the Denver Post.

Now, according to the Denver Post, 29 families afflicted by the outbreak filed suit against their city government yesterday and include the widow of Larry Velasquez, 54, who died after the Salmonella pathogen entered his bloodstream. “He was running a high fever,” said his daughter, Anna Velasquez, quoted the Denver Post. “He couldn’t eat anything. His stomach was upset, throwing up all the time. He had diarrhea,” she added. The hospital gave Velasquez shot for nausea and released him, she said, adding that she and her mother took Velasquez to another hospital, which confirmed the Salmonella infection. By then, “it was already septic—there was nothing they could do,” she added. “He passed away at the hospital.”

At the time he fell ill, Velasquez had been diagnosed with colon cancer and was suffering from a weakened immune system. “I think if Alamosa had taken better care of their water supply, my dad would still be here,” his daughter said, reported the Denver Post.

Fourteen plaintiffs are parents suing on behalf of their children.

Salmonella, which is usually found in food and water contaminated with animal feces, is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstance, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis. Salmonella poisoning can lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.

The Alamosa outbreak was the worst waterborne disease outbreak in the United States in the past several years. Regardless, an immunity law in the state of Colorado limits city and state government liability to no more than $600,000 annually, said the Denver Post. No dollar amount has been specified in the lawsuit.

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