Waterborne Diseases: What You Need to Know and How to Prevent Them

by Blue Gold For Life
Waterborne Diseases: What You Need to Know and How to Prevent Them

What are Waterborne Diseases?

Water is essential for life, but it can also be a source of illness. Waterborne diseases are caused by harmful microorganisms that contaminate water, leading to illness in humans and animals. These diseases can be found in both developing and developed countries, and they affect millions of people each year. In this blog, we'll take a closer look at what waterborne diseases are, how they happen, their symptoms, prevention advice, and how water filters can help lower the risks.

Waterborne diseases are illnesses caused by microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites that are present in contaminated water. These microorganisms can enter the body through various means, including drinking, bathing, and swimming in contaminated water, or through the consumption of food that has been prepared with contaminated water. Waterborne diseases can cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, and in some cases, can be life-threatening.

These diseases pose a significant risk to human health, but the good news is that more than 95% of them are preventable. It is crucial to be aware of these illnesses to lower the risk of contracting them for you and your loved ones. In this guide, we have put together crucial information on the most common waterborne diseases to help you prevent them.

"...the CDC found that nearly 7.2 million Americans get sick from diseases spread through water each year."

How do Waterborne Diseases Happen?

According to the World Health Organization, such diseases account for an estimated 4.1% of the total DAILY global burden of disease, and cause about 1.8 million human deaths annually.

Waterborne diseases can occur when water sources become contaminated with human or animal waste, or other harmful substances. Contamination can happen in several ways, including:

  1. Poor Sanitation: In areas with poor sanitation facilities, human and animal waste can contaminate water sources, such as rivers, lakes, and wells.

  2. Agricultural Runoff: Agricultural runoff can also contaminate water sources with chemicals and fertilizers that can cause harm to humans and animals.

  3. Industrial Pollution: Industrial pollution can also contaminate water sources with chemicals, heavy metals, and other harmful substances.

  4. Aging Infrastructure: Aging infrastructure in developed countries can lead to the contamination of water sources due to corrosion, leaks, and breaches.

Most people worry about these diseases being present in their drinking water, but some of these germs can also make you sick when the water:

  • Is inhaled as a mist
  • Comes in contact with an open wound
  • Goes up the nose (for example, when using a neti pot)
  • Is used to rinse or store contact lenses, or is splashed in someone’s eyes while they are wearing contacts

1. Cholera

Cholera is an acute diarrheal waterborne disease that can be deadly if left untreated. It is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which is typically transmitted through contaminated water or food. The disease is most common in areas with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water.

Symptoms of cholera can include severe diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. Treatment typically involves rehydration therapy, which can be administered orally or intravenously.

Prevention measures include improving water and sanitation infrastructure, promoting hygiene practices, and administering vaccines to at-risk populations. Cholera vaccines are available and can provide significant protection against the disease.

Bottle of sample water for examination of cholera waterborne disease

2. Giardiasis

Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease caused by the parasite Giardia. It is spread through the ingestion of contaminated food or water or through person-to-person contact. It may be found in public water supplies, pools, spas, and private wells. The parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive for weeks or months, and it spreads easily by contaminating anything it touches.

Symptoms of giardiasis can include diarrhea, gas, stomach cramps, and nausea. In some cases, the disease may not cause any symptoms at all.

Prevention measures include practicing good hygiene, avoiding contaminated water sources, and properly cooking food. Additionally, water filtration or treatment systems can be effective at removing the Giardia parasite from drinking water.

Baby bottle with dirty contaminated water

3. Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidium is a parasite that can cause illness in humans. It is typically spread through the ingestion of contaminated water, food, or fecal matter. In fact, Cryptosporidiosis is the most common cause of recreational water illness outbreaks in the United States.

Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis can include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and dehydration. In healthy individuals, symptoms will typically resolve within a few weeks. However, individuals with weakened immune systems may experience severe illness.

Treatment for cryptosporidiosis typically involves rehydration therapy, In some cases, medication may also be prescribed.

Prevention measures include practicing good hygiene, properly washing fruits and vegetables, and avoiding swallowing water while swimming. Additionally, water filtration or treatment systems can be effective at removing the Cryptosporidium parasite from drinking water.

Dirty pool with contaminated water

4. Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is typically spread through the ingestion of contaminated food or water, or through close contact with an infected individual.

Symptoms of hepatitis A can include fever, fatigue, nausea, and jaundice. In most cases, the disease resolves on its own within a few weeks to months. However, in rare cases, hepatitis A can cause severe illness and even death.

Prevention measures include improving sanitation and hygiene practices, administering vaccines to at-risk populations, and avoiding high-risk foods and drinks. In addition, water filtration or treatment systems can be effective at removing the hepatitis A virus from drinking water.

Hepatitis A vaccine

5. Dysentery

Dysentery is an intestinal infection that can be caused by a parasite or bacteria, and is characterized by symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, mucus, fever, cramps, nausea, and vomiting. In the United States, the most common type of dysentery is bacillary dysentery, which is caused by the bacteria Shigella. Amoebic dysentery, caused by the parasite Entamoeba histolytica, is more commonly contracted while traveling.

While dysentery typically resolves on its own within a week, it's important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Painkillers may be prescribed for severe symptoms. It's also important to wash your hands thoroughly and avoid contact with others while sick to prevent the spread of the infection. The best way to prevent dysentery is through good hand hygiene practices.

Lady with dysentery caused by waterborne disease

6. Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is caused by Salmonella Typhi bacteria and can result in a range of symptoms including a high fever, headache, abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal issues. While the disease is uncommon in developed countries, it poses a significant threat in developing nations, and travelers are particularly susceptible. As the bacteria can contaminate a variety of surfaces, poor hygiene practices can facilitate its spread, and vaccination is recommended before traveling to at-risk regions. Although the vaccine can reduce the risk of contracting the disease by up to 80%, it is still important to be cautious when it comes to food, water, and hygiene. In the event of infection, prompt antibiotic treatment can help to alleviate symptoms within a few days, but if left untreated, the disease can be severe and potentially fatal.

Kid with fever due waterborne disease

How to prevent waterborne diseases?

Waterborne diseases can be easily prevented with basic precautions that can also help you avoid other types of infections. Here are some best practices for preventing waterborne diseases:

Water Usage: Consider installing a water filter in your home to remove contaminants that could be harmful to your health. Ensure that the systems you consider are tested and certified by an unaffiliated third-party organization such as NSF, WQA, or IAPMO. Water filtration systems not only make your water safer but also improve overall quality, including taste, appearance, and smell. Enjoy cleaner and safer water with a water filtration system.

Personal Hygiene: Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, contact with animals, outdoor activities, and food preparation or eating. While washing hands, use plenty of soap and scrub under water for at least 20 seconds. Supervise children’s hand-washing to ensure they cover all surfaces on their hands.

Food Safety: When preparing food, make sure to wash and/or peel all raw produce and thoroughly cook all meat to an appropriate temperature. If you have symptoms of a waterborne illness, avoid preparing food for others until 48 hours after you recover. While eating out or traveling, be cautious of the environment of the place serving food and consider eating elsewhere if you suspect unsanitary conditions.

Environmental Management: At home, ensure that you clean and disinfect surfaces frequently. When you are in new or unfamiliar areas, be cautious about where you step and what you touch.

Can water filters prevent waterborne diseases?

Water filters are an essential tool for preventing waterborne diseases, as they effectively remove contaminants that could be harmful to human health. Depending on the type of filter, they can remove impurities such as bacteria, viruses, and other harmful particles from the water supply. While not all filters are equally effective, some of the best options for removing pathogens include those that use reverse osmosis, ultraviolet light, or activated carbon. Reverse osmosis filters can remove almost all contaminants, while ultraviolet light can kill bacteria and viruses. Activated carbon filters can also remove impurities and improve the taste and smell of water. It's important to choose a filter that is certified by a third-party organization such as NSF, WQA, or IAPMO to ensure its effectiveness.

Here are some of our recommendations:

It is recommended to be careful about your drinking water when traveling, so it's ideal to consider carrying a water bottle equipped with a built-in filter, such as our Stainless Steel Insulated Filtered Water Bottle or canteen.

by Blue Gold For Life


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