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5 Waterborne Diseases You Should Be Wary Of

Access to clean and safe drinking water is vital for public health. However, water sources can become contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens that can cause serious illnesses when the contaminated water is consumed or used for bathing or cleaning.

Being aware of the risks and symptoms of common waterborne diseases is crucial for public health. This guide covers major types of waterborne illnesses to watch out for, so you can take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

What is a waterborne disease?

Waterborne diseases are illnesses caused by contaminated drinking water. These diseases are spread when people drink or come into contact with water populated by dangerous bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemical pollutants.

Symptoms of waterborne illness can include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, nausea, and fever. Factors like poor sanitation, infrastructure, and water treatment increase risks for contaminated drinking water and disease transmission.

Many waterborne disease outbreaks have occurred throughout history. Recently, Camp Lejeune Marines and families were exposed to contaminated drinking water from 1953 to 1987. This led to a high incidence of diseases like leukemia, liver cancer, and Parkinson’s.

Those impacted have sought help from camp lejeune water contamination attorney regarding compensation for health conditions related to toxic exposure at the base. Lawsuits and disability claims remain ongoing.

Common waterborne diseases:

1) Cholera

Cholera remains a major waterborne disease threat globally, primarily in developing countries with inadequate drinking water treatment and sanitation infrastructure. Once it takes hold, it can spread rapidly, especially in densely populated areas.

Cause and Transmission

Cholera is caused by the bacterium—Vibrio cholerae—which is typically found in water or food contaminated by feces from an infected person. Common transmission routes include:

  • Consuming contaminated drinking water.
  • Eating raw or undercooked seafood from contaminated waters.
  • Eating contaminated raw fruits or vegetables.
  • Close contact with an infected person.


  • It causes profuse watery diarrhea that can quickly lead to dangerous dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Other symptoms may include vomiting, muscle cramps, fever, and rapid heart rate.
  • Symptoms typically begin 12-72 hours after ingesting the bacteria.
  • In severe cases, death can occur within hours if untreated.


  • Drink only treated/filtered water and avoid potentially contaminated sources.
  • Properly cook seafood and wash the produce thoroughly.
  • Maintain good personal, food, and water hygiene practices.
  • Two oral cholera vaccines are available and recommended for travelers to high-risk regions.


  • Rehydration therapy is the main treatment to reverse dehydration.
  • Antibiotics may speed recovery and reduce the duration of illness in severe cases.
  • Patients with severe dehydration may need rapid IV fluid replacement.

2) Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidiosis is one of the most prevalent causes of serious waterborne illness in the United States. A microscopic parasite is responsible for causing profuse, watery diarrhea that can be deadly for people with weakened immune systems.

Cause and Transmission

  • Caused by microscopic Cryptosporidium parasites that infect the lining of the digestive tract.
  • Mainly spread through contaminated drinking water sources.
  • Also spread by ingesting contaminated recreational water or uncooked foods.
  • Contact with infected persons or animals can also transmit the parasite.


  • Watery diarrhea, sometimes extreme and profuse, is the main symptom.
  • Nausea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps may also occur.
  • In healthy people, symptoms typically last 1-2 weeks and resolve on their own.
  • In immunocompromised individuals, the illness can become severe and chronic.


  • Drink treated water and avoid untreated sources.
  • Avoid swimming in bodies of water that may be contaminated.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after contact with animals or infected individuals.
  • Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables.
  • Boiling water for at least 1 minute will kill Cryptosporidium.


  • In healthy patients, staying hydrated and managing symptoms is key.
  • No medications have proven effective yet, as the parasite is resistant to most drugs.
  • For immunocompromised patients, anti-parasitic drugs may be tried, but re-infection is common.

3) Giardiasis

Giardiasis is one of the most frequent intestinal parasitic infections globally. Cases are much more common in developing countries. In the U.S., Giardia infection is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease outbreaks.

Cause and Transmission

  • Caused by the _Giardia intestinalis_ parasite.
  • The main route is drinking contaminated water, including untreated recreational water.
  • Also transmitted through the fecal-oral route via poor hygiene.
  • Foodborne outbreaks through contaminated produce are possible.


  • Diarrhea is the hallmark symptom, possibly intermittent.
  • Nausea, gas, greasy/foul-smelling stools, stomach cramps.
  • The illness lasts 2-6 weeks in healthy individuals.
  • In chronic cases, weight loss and fatigue may also occur.


  • Drink only treated water from a safe municipal source or properly maintained well.
  • When hiking/camping, avoid drinking from bodies of water.
  • Treat water by boiling, filtering, or chemically disinfecting.
  • Wash hands and produce thoroughly.


  • Various drugs are effective, mainly metronidazole and tinidazole.
  • The treatment eliminates symptoms and prevents the spread to others.
  • Good hygiene is important during and after treatment to prevent reinfection.

4) Shigellosis

Shigellosis goes by other names like bacterial dysentery or the nickname “Montezuma’s Revenge.” Shigellosis is common in overcrowded conditions with poor hygiene and unsafe water supplies.

Cause and Transmission

  • It is caused by Shigella bacteria species.
  • Extremely contagious – only a tiny number of bacteria can cause infection.
  • Spread through contaminated water, food, and personal contact.


  • Diarrhea, often bloody, is the main symptom.
  • Also causes fever, stomach cramps, and nausea.
  • Usually resolves in 5-7 days.


  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and clean water.
  • Only drink treated water from safe sources.
  • Cook foods thoroughly and eat while still hot.
  • Avoid swimming in contaminated water.


  • The primary treatment is managing fluids/electrolytes.
  • Antibiotics may be used in severe cases to speed recovery.

5) Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is a severe disease spread through contaminated food and water. While uncommon in developed nations, U.S. cases often occur in returning travelers.

Cause and Transmission

  • Caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi.
  • Spread through contaminated drinking water and food.
  • Also transmitted person-to-person through poor hygiene habits.
  • Endemic in developing nations, especially Southeast Asia.


  • Sustained high fever up to 104°F (40°C).
  • Severe headache, nausea, loss of appetite.
  • Stomach pain and constipation are more common than diarrhea.
  • Pink rash in some cases.


  • Drink only treated or boiled water in high-risk areas.
  • Avoid raw fruits/vegetables unless you can peel them yourself.
  • Get vaccinated if traveling to endemic regions.
  • Practice good personal hygiene.


  • Antibiotic treatment (ampicillin, ciprofloxacin) is effective.
  • Treatment reduces the risk of complications and death.


By staying aware of the diseases covered in this guide and following CDC and local health department recommendations, you can help protect yourself and vulnerable loved ones from the dangers of contaminated water. Safe water and good hygiene habits are fundamental pillars of preventive health care.

Medical Device News Magazinehttps://infomeddnews.com
Medical Device News Magazine provides breaking medical device / biotechnology news. Our subscribers include medical specialists, device industry executives, investors, and other allied health professionals, as well as patients who are interested in researching various medical devices. We hope you find value in our easy-to-read publication and its overall objectives! Medical Device News Magazine is a division of PTM Healthcare Marketing, Inc. Pauline T. Mayer is the managing editor.

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