Pathogens 101Water is one of the basic needs of man. Third world countries struggle to make water safe to drink. Though developed countries like the United States and Australia have technological advancements helping them have clean water for drinking, there are still reported cases of waterborne illnesses.

Worldwide, there are numerous diseases you may get by drinking contaminated water. The most common symptom experienced by victims is diarrhoea or passing of watery stools. Though rehydration is the key to prevent potentially fatal complications, like water and electrolyte imbalance, targeting the pathogen causing the disease is crucial, too.

Cases of Diarrhoea

About four billion cases of diarrhoea per year cause 1.8 million deaths. Over 90 per cent (1.6 million) of them are children under five. Repeated episodes of diarrhoea make children more vulnerable to other diseases, and malnutrition.

  1. Legionella

Public drinking water can harbour bacteria that can cause serious diseases. Legionella causes a disease called Legionnaire’s disease that affects 8,000 to 18,000 people in the United States each year. In Australia, Legionella guidelines help the government and public buildings with cooling towers or systems to regularly maintain and check the risk for such disease.

  1. Typhoid Fever

Salmonella typhi or S. paratyphi is a bacteria that causes typhoid fever, which is accompanied by symptoms of fever, headache, constipation and ‘rose spots’ on the skin. This is highly contagious, so antibacterial treatment is important.

  1. Cholera

This is a contagious and potentially fatal disease caused by Vibrio cholera. Left untreated, this can lead to acute dehydration and even death. This worldwide epidemic can be prevented by access to safe drinking water and good sanitation. Water filter installation is one preventive measure to make sure water is free of contaminants. In 2002 alone, there were over 120,000 reported cases worldwide.

  1. Gastroenteritis

This is commonly caused by organisms like Escherichia coli (bacteria), Campylobacter jejuni (bacteria), Cryptosporidium parvum (protozoa) and Giardia lamblia (protozoa). Some of the common symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting and feeling of bloating. The patient may have a fever and lose weight, in severe cases.

Waterborne diseases are preventable through efforts focused on keeping water sources clean and safe for public consumption. A joint effort from the government and constituents make sure water is safe to drink, and prevent these diseases from causing outbreaks.