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Long Beach student has suspected E. coli infection; 3 schools closed Monday due to water issue, officials say

City officials hand out cases of bottled water

City officials hand out cases of bottled water to Long Beach residents Friday. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Three Long Beach elementary schools will close Monday because of a "boil water" order for possible E. coli contamination, as school officials told parents that the district was notified Sunday that a student who lives within city limits has been diagnosed with a suspected E. coli infection this week.

"In an abundance of caution, we are going to close East, West, and Lindell schools tomorrow," the school district said in a statement posted to its web page and Facebook account. "Although we can provide adequate bottled water for students and staff to drink, we cannot guarantee proper hand-washing among students. Even though this is really precautionary, and we have been assured by the city that they hope that the alert will be lifted soon, we do not want to take any chances with the health and safety of our students and staff."

Lido, Pre-K, Long Beach Middle School, and Long Beach High School will be in regular session on Monday because their water comes from a different source.

Since Friday about 35,000 residents had been directed to boil water for drinking, brushing teeth, washing hands when preparing food and bathing infants. Tap water must be boiled for one minute, experts said.

Officials have previously said there were no reported cases of illness.

County Health Department spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain said Sunday evening, "We do not have any laboratory confirmed cases at this time," she said. She was unaware of any suspected E. coli infections.

Also on Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered an additional 85,000 bottles of water to the community and said a team from the state Department of Health would help investigate the source of E. coli contamination.

"We will provide clean drinking water to the people of Long Beach and continue working hand in glove with local leaders to provide whatever resources are needed until this situation is fully resolved," Cuomo said in a statement.

The Nassau County Department of Health and Long Beach officials said the boil water notice remains in effect at least until Monday, but there was no further update.

Water is still safe for bathing, if not ingested, and cooking, if water is boiled for one minute or food is cooked to appropriate temperatures, experts said. Water should not be used to rinse produce; any ice made from water that has not been boiled should be tossed out, and ice-makers turned off.

County officials said the source of the E. coli had not been found, but possibly came from a water main or storage tank, which prompted a request for the city to flush hydrants. The city has raised the chlorine levels and is flushing the water system.

The E. coli warning does not apply to surrounding communities of Long Beach, including Lido Beach, Atlantic Beach and Point Lookout.

E. coli, found in the intestines of people and animals, is a family of bacteria with both harmful and harmless strains, according to the state Department of Health. The harmful strains can release toxins that cause diarrhea or vomiting. The bacteria “may pose a special risk for infants, young children, elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems,” the state health officials said.

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