Waterborne diseases

Waterborne diseases are caused by pathogenic microorganisms which are directly transmitted when contaminated drinking water is consumed. Contaminated drinking water, used in the preparation of food, can be the source of foodborne disease through consumption of the same microorganisms. According to the World Health Organization, diarrheal disease accounts for an estimated 4.1% of the total DALY global burden of disease and is responsible for the deaths of 1.8 million people every year. It was estimated that 88% of that burden is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and is mostly concentrated in children in developing countries.

Waterborne disease can be caused by protozoa, viruses, bacteria, and intestinal parasites.

Protozoal infections

Disease and Transmission Microbial Agent Sources of Agent in Water Supply General Symptoms
Amoebiasis (hand-to-mouth) Protozoan (Entamoeba histolytic) (Cyst-like appearance) Sewage, non-treated drinking water, flies in water supply Abdominal discomfort, fatigue, weight loss, diarrhoea, gas pains
Fever, abdominal pain
Cryptosporidiosis (oral) Protozoan (Cryptosporidium parvum) Collects on water filters and membranes that cannot be disinfected, animal manure, seasonal runoff of water. Flu-like symptoms, watery diarrhoea, loss of appetite, substantial loss of weight, bloating, increased gas, stomach
Cyclosporiasis Protozoan parasite (Cyclospora cayetanensis) Sewage, non-treated drinking water cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, low-grade fever, and fatigue
Giardiasis (oral-fecal) (hand-to-mouth) Protozoan (Giardia lamblia) Most common intestinal parasite Untreated water, poor disinfection, pipe breaks, leaks, groundwater contamination, campgrounds where humans and wildlife use same source of water. Beavers and muskrats act as a reservoir for Giardia. Diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas and gas pains
Microsporidiosis Protozoan (Microsporidia), but closely related to fungi The genera of Encephalitozoon intestinalis has been detected in groundwater, swimming pool via AIDS patients and the origin of drinking water

Parasitic Infections

Disease and Transmission Microbial Agent Sources of Agent in Water Supply General Symptoms
Schistosomiasis (immersion) Schistosoma Contaminated fresh water with certain types of snails that carry schistosomes Rash or itchy skin. Fever, chills, cough, and muscle aches
dracunculiasis dracanculus medinensis drinking water containing infective cyclops allergic reaction,urticaria rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, asthmatic attack.
taeniasis solium taenia solium contaminate drinking water with eggs intestinal disturbances, neurologic manifestations, loss of weight, cysticercosis
fasciolopsis fasciola contaminated drinking water with encysted metacercaria GIT disturbance, diarrhea, liver enlargement, cholangitis, cholecystitis, obstructive jaundice.
hymenolepiasis nana hymenolepis nana contaminated drinking water with eggs mild GIT symptoms, nervous manifestation
hyatidosis echinococcus granulosus contaminated drinking water with eggs hyatid cyst press on bile duct and blood vessels, if it ruptured cause anaphylactic shock.
coenurosis multiceps multiceps contaminated drinking water with eggs increases intacranial tension
ascariasis ascaris lumbricoides contaminated drinking water with eggs Loefflers syndrome in lung, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, malnutrition, underdevelopment,
enterobiasis entrobius vermicularis contaminated drinking water with eggs peri-anal itch, nervous irritability, hyperactivity and insomnia
Disease Morbidity
(cases per year)
(deaths per year)
1,500,000,000 100,000
Schistosomiasis 200,000,000 200,000

Bacterial infections

Viral Infections

Allergic infections

  • Hay fever - a part of disease rate is associated with the high frequency of swimming pool attendance in childhood
  • Meningitis
  • Trihalomethanes - a byproduct of chlorinated water which will cause bladder cancer through inhalation and dermal absorption during showering, bathing, and swimming in pools.


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