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The Rhode Island Health Department (RIHD) has warned residents and commercial tenants along Centre of New England Boulevard in Coventry to boil water before using because Escherichia coli was found in the water supply on Dec. 21.

Escherichia coli – abbreviated E. coli – is a harmful pathogen usually contracted by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. The bacteria can be particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.

The RIHD said notices must be hand-delivered to all affected residences. In addition, signs must be hanged in commercial areas to warn the general public.

Coventry Police say residents effected by the order can have water containers filled at the Hopkins Hill and Arnold Road fire stations.

Cracker Barrel, Applebee’s, and Denny’s restaurants remain open, but all three are under the boil-water advisory. It is unclear whether Walmart, Home Depot or other nearby retailers are part of the advisory.

The Hampton Inn and Wendy’s along the boulevard are not connected to the water system and therefore not affected by the advisory.

E. coli facts

E. coli bacteria are normally found in the intestines of all mammals. Most strains are benign, but some can cause serious illness.

Symptoms can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal cramping
  • diarrhea, often bloody
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • decreased urination.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome

As much as 10 percent of those infected with E. coli develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The overwhelming majority of HUS cases involve children under the age of 5, and the disease is the No. 1 cause of acute kidney failure for that age group.

HUS typically develops after a long bout with E. coli-produced diarrhea. The disease damages red blood cells, which can clog the kidney’s filtering and result in kidney failure. In severe cases, a kidney transplant might be needed to avoid death.