ILLUSTRATED BY ANNIE WIRE
Escherichia Coli, the word for bacteria in the stomach, are normally just called COLIS. We call them our little friends. They are very small and you cannot see them just with your eyes. There are as many in our stomach as there are stars in the sky.
They live in our stomach and help us to digest our food. They also protect us from many illnesses. They are our friends.
We all know that people can be very different, and just as people are different so are the COLIS in their system. The people within a family, a village or a tribe are more similar than people in other areas. People who speak the same language have more in common than people who speak in a different language and are in a different part of the world.
This is very similar to the COLIS. The closer people live to one another and share similar eating and drinking habits, the more similar their COLIS. COLIS are fearful. They live in your stomach and cannot protect themselves. They cannot fight for their survival.
When you eat bad food and drink unclean water or simply when you eat or drink food you are not used to then the COLIS are afraid and leave the stomach very suddenly. The consequence is diarrhea.
If this lasts for a couple of days, then there is no problem. The old COLIS and the new COLIS form a friendship and work together in your stomach.
This process can be difficult for young children or older people where this system does not work well. The new and old bacteria are slow in forming a new friendship.
There is however a more serious form: if new sets of COLIS are constantly getting into our stomach, the old COLIS cannot integrate with the new COLIS. There is no peace in your stomach. This causes illnesses called CHOLERA or DYSENTERY. These are serious and you need medical help.
We can reduce the chance of getting this illness if we are careful. We need to avoid getting too many new COLIS into our bodies. Most COLIS get into our body through our drinking water.
For example: If you drink water from the river than you are likely to get the COLIS from the people who live further up on the river. When they wash in the river or excrete in the river than their COLIS will be in your drinking water.
In this case you are likely to get their disease. Chances are that when you drink water from the river that you drink also more COLIS than stars you can see in the sky.
The best is to avoid drinking water directly from the river. Wash in it and use it for cooking but try not to drink too much of it. You can also bath in it if you do not swallow too much water.
Here is advice on how to make river water into drinking water. There are several ways of getting the COLIS out of the river water.
1. You can heat the water to kill COLIS. It should be that warm that you cannot put your finger in it for more than 1 second. Best is to leave it at that temperature for about 30 minutes.
2. Chlorine tablets will clean the water chemically by destroying COLIS. Perhaps it is difficult to obtain these tablets. Moreover the water will not taste good. This approach should only be used at difficult times.
3. You can filter the water to remove COLIS. The easiest approach would be to dig a hole nearby the river (50 cm is sufficient) and water will slowly fill the hole. Use a clean dish to collect the water and make sure that the dish does not come into contact with other surfaces, including hands! How can this be done? The solution could be: Find a plastic container with a lid, which is big enough to accommodate dish and rope. Then find a hook with which you can pick up the rope for water sampling. Then fix the rope to the dish and cook them together for a few minutes. Put the rope and dish in the container and keep the hook outside. At the hole you pick up the rope with the hook and you sample the water. Use other hooks to pour the water from the dish into your own cups, pots or bottles. The hole must be securely closed at all times when no water is picked up. Explain to your people that the rope and the dish must never get into contact with hands! Bear also in mind that, if the water in the hole is contaminated with COLIS, then the hole water may even be worse than the river water because COLIS have time to grow in the hole.
Sand, or charcoal filters are better because the risk of contamination is much lower. The disadvantage is that filters and filter fillings are special hardware and the operation of these filters needs expertise. Also the filter fillings have to be replaced from time to time.
4. You can put the water into a transparent plastic bottle (PET) and leave it in the sun. COLIS can only live in the dark; they die in the sun light. If you want to try this then use only PET bottles which had been filled with water, not soft drinks! Remove the old label and re-label the PET bottle as “water purifier”. Do not use it any longer for other purposes. Fill with river water and leave the water purifier in the sun for about 1 day. If the river water is yellowish in colour you may need 2-3 days. If you use larger PET containers with 10 – 20 L volume then you may need even longer times.
It is possible that algae may grow in the container (green colour) but they are not harmful. Do not get in direct contact with the water purifier opening, but, of course, you should wash the water purifiers regularly in the river if needed. When you pour the water out make sure that the opening of the bottle is not getting into contact with other surfaces. Unfortunately you cannot use PET bottles for long time. As soon as visible deposits are in the bottle then the sun cannot attack COLIS which are hidden in these deposits and you have to replace it.
5. You can use rain water and collect it in a cistern. This approach is basically good but the cistern has to be cleaned regularly and you have to make sure that no animals, especially birds, contaminate the water.
COLIS can also reach your system through food. Food should be cooked to avoid the COLIS getting into your system. Fresh fruits which are in their natural seal from COLIS, like bananas, pineapple, mangoes or papaya can be eaten raw. This is good for you. They have many vitamins which keeps your body healthy.