By Velena Jones

FOLSOM (CBS13) —  A woman is warning people to stay away from the American River after two trips to the emergency room, following a day of fun on the water.

She is blaming E. coli in the river for a painful rash on her stomach.

“I can feel the blisters tearing. When I turn, when I bend over, it feels tight,” said Anna Sanders.

Sanders said the rash started as a small red mark on her skin the day after tubing in the river. She said it quickly grew to a bright red rash and blisters spread across her stomach.

“It’s really painful. I’ve had to go to the E.R. twice one of the time I had to get IV and antibiotics and I just wanted to make sure that parents aren’t coming out here and letting their kids swim,” she said.

She noticed the rash the morning after she visited the American River near the Folsom Powerhouse. Sanders was diagnosed with a staph infection and said her doctor claims the source could be E. coli in the river. Sanders posted her story on social media to warn others and heard from a number of people claiming the same thing happened to them.

“Some of them don’t have it as bad, some of them have it the same,” she explained.

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Dr. Dean Blumberg at UC Davis Health said he has never seen E. coli and staph infections connected.

“The E. coli being in the river indicates that there is fecal contamination in the river and usually staph is not a part of that,” he explained. “Generally, that is not from river water. The river water is usually not contaminated with staph.”

Instead, Blumberg said increased levels of E. coli can present other problems.

“It is more than just E. coli, it makes it very dangerous. It does indicate that there is likely human waste that’s contaminating the river it makes it an unsafe environment so that when people are exposed to that they have increased risk to infection,” he said.

The county and the state track water contamination. The State Water Board does not have testing data near the area in Folsom where Sanders spent time. However, they are monitoring levels from the lower Sunrise Area to Discovery Park. Out of that data, areas around Sacramento’s Tiscornia beach are the only places they show E. coli levels are above average.

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According to Sacramento County, increased levels of E. coli do not always mean swimmers are at risk.

“Increased levels of E. coli does not necessarily equate to an increased exposure risk for swimmers,” county spokesperson Brenda Bongiorno said in an email. “Informational signs are posted at common river access locations with historically high E. coli readings such as Discovery Park Boat Launch, Tiscornia Beach and Howe Avenue River Access.”

Local group “Save the American River” recently tested the area near Tiscornia Beach and Steelhead Creek for five weeks and believes the county needs to do more about warning visitors of the dangers.

“We find a terrible mess. It’s almost at the level of raw sewage. It looks beautiful the water is cool and inviting, many people swim there. They should not swim there without knowing the dangers,” said Alan Wade.

Wade doesn’t believe people should be getting into the water with the contamination.

“The constant level is far more than human beings should be swimming in,” he said.

Velena Jones

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