Water is one of those important basics to life and health. Yet it can readily be contaminated and harbor with some nasty illness causing waterborne disease pathogens.
It is comforting to known that the U.S. has one of the safest water supplies in the world. However, the safety from disease in any given tap, river, lake or beach does vary. As such, contamination causing illness may be only a drink or dip away.
Common organisms causing contaminated waterborne diseases around the globe include:
- E. coli
- hepatitis A
- vibrio cholerae
Contaminated surface water and poorly functioning municipal water distribution systems highly contribute to the transmission of waterborne bacterial diseases.
The range of waterborne illnesses resulting from a gulp of contaminated water, involve:
- Brainerd ~ chronic diarrhea
- dysentery ~ bloody diarrhea
- cholera ~ dehydrating diarrhea
- typhoid fever ~ prolonged abdominal cramps
Often swimmers are exposed to waterborne pathogens causing disease when they accidentally take a swallow of the water. You can also get some infections simply by wading into polluted water.
The most common illness caused by swimming in contaminated water is gastroenteritis. Nonetheless, other types of contamination caused infections may develop:
Generally, waterborne infectious diseases are prevented in chlorinated pool water. Still, some organisms are moderately to highly resistant to chlorine, particularly:
- hepatitis A
In areas where you suspected contamination of tap water, these health promoting usage adjustments are advised:
- avoid brushing teeth with tap water
- dry wet cans, bottles before opening
- ice should be considered contaminated
- canned or unopened bottled beverages only
- drink beverages made from boiled water only
- clean surfaces with which your mouth has direct contact
- locally prepared fruit juice may contain contaminated tap water
Before traveling outside the U.S., check out your destination on CDC map for their known diseases.