Water Borne Diseases


Water borne diseases are caused by ingestion of water contaminated by human or animal excrement, which contain pathogenic microorganisms. These include cholera, typhoid, amoebic and bacillary dysentery along with other diarrheal diseases.

Diarrheal Diseases

Giardiasis (Protozoan)
Cryptosporidiosis (Bacteria)
Campylobacteriosis (Bacteria)
Shigellosis (Bacteria)
Viral Gastroenteritis (Virus)
Cyclosporiasis (Parasite)

Viruses causing water borne infectious diseases include rotavirus, polio virus, Hepatitis A and E viruses. Bacteria include Vibrio cholerae, Escherichia coli 0157, Salmonella typhi, Shigella flexneri, Campylobacter pylori and Chlamydia trachomatis. Protozoa include Giardia lamblia, Entameba histolytica, Cryptosporidium parvum, Cyclospora cayetanensis and Balantidium coli. Helminths include Strongyloides stercoralis, Dracunculus medinensis, Schistosoma mansoni, Schistosoma japonicum and Schistosoma haematobium.

In addition, water-borne disease can be caused by the pollution of water with chemicals that have an adverse effect on health, including arsenic, flouride, nitrates from fertilizers, carcinogenic pesticides (DDT), lead (from pipes) and heavy metals.

Water-washed Diseases

Diseases caused by poor personal hygiene and skin and eye contact with contaminated water are known as water washed diseases.
These include scabies, trachoma, typhus, and other flea, lice and tick-borne diseases.

Water-based Diseases

Diseases caused by parasites found in intermediate organisms living in contaminated water are known as water based diseases. These include Schistosomiasis and Dracunculiasis.

Water-related Diseases

Water-related diseases are caused by insect vectors, especially mosquitoes, that breed or feed near contaminated water.
They are not typically associated with lack of access to clean drinking water or sanitation services. These include dengue, filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, trypanosomiasis and yellow fever.

Other Water-borne diseases may result by:

Other recreational activities that have water contact

The Problem

The problem of water borne diseases is huge. It constitutes about 80% of infectious diseases. More than 5 million people die each year from such diseases and more than 2 million die from water-related diarrhea alone. Most of those dying are small children.
Other consequences include lost work days, missed educational opportunities, official and unofficial healthcare costs and drainage of family resources.

Control & Prevention

Global level

Governments, communities and individuals all have to play their roles.

Education Issues

Education regarding hygiene is essential for all along with good nutrition to fight against infectious agents. Improvements in habitation and general sanitation may play important role. Higher education training in water-related issues is also essential.

Global Surveillance

Public health infrastucture needs to be developed and standardized surveillance of water-borne disease outbreaks needs to be done. Guidelines must be established for investigating and reporting water-borne diseases.

Communication and the Media

Media impacts at all levels. It is very powerful, and needs to be utilized for health awareness.

General Guidelines

  • Avoid contacting soil that may be contaminated with human feces.
  • Do not defecate outdoors.
  • Dispose off diapers properly.
  • Wash hands with soap and water before handling food.
  • When traveling to countries where sanitation and hygiene are poor, avoid water or food that may be contaminated.
  • Wash, peel or cook all raw vegetables and fruits before eating.

A Simple Rule of Thumb
“Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it”

The Future
Even if by the year 2020, the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water is halved, between 34 and 76 million people, mostly children, will die from preventable water-borne diseases

More Challenges

Chlorine-resistant and antibiotic resistant microbes
Climate Changes
Economic barriers for developing countries to sanitize large amounts of water

The Answer

Education on hygiene, sanitation and water quality
Commitment to the elimination of specific diseases