Water Borne Diseases - Type, Transmission and Prevention

    Water-borne diseases are infections caused by microorganisms, like bacteria, viruses, and parasites ingested through contaminated water or by coming in contact with feces. Many people can come in contact with water-borne pathogens by consuming contaminated food or beverages, from contact with animals, or through person-to-person spread.


    The majority of water-borne diseases worldwide mainly affect children due to their weak immune system. The diseases may be life-threatening too. Over the past few decades, awareness of the different types of water-borne diseases has come to the forefront. Several pathogenic microorganisms which were not known previously, have become the focus of significant research in this field.  


    World Health Organization says an estimate of 80% of diseases worldwide are water-borne. Poor sanitation and hygiene is the main reason for such diseases. These growing diseases can be controlled if everyone practices good hygiene in their lives.


    Types of water-borne diseases:


    Due to the poor quality of drinking water and sanitation in India, a variety of water-borne diseases erupt every year. Given below is a list of the most dangerous water-related illnesses that occur in India.




    Diarrhea is the most common symptom of all water-borne diseases and mainly affects children below five years of age. The symptoms include dizziness, dehydration, abdominal cramps, pale skin, fever, and loss of consciousness in chronic cases. It usually lasts for one or two weeks and can turn out to be fatal if left untreated.




    The leading cause of cholera is a bacterium, namely Vibrio cholerae, via consumption of contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. The symptoms are diarrhea, repeated vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. Cholera can affect anyone. It holds a mortality rate that is alarmingly higher among the water-borne diseases.




    Typhoid is caused by bacteria Salmonella typhi and transmitted via contaminated water. The patients with typhoid typically suffer from prolonged episodes of fever, loss of appetite, nausea, headache, constipation, and loss of body weight. Immediate attention is needed to cure typhoid in the patient, as well as to prevent the spread since it's a contagious disease.




    A disease caused by a parasite named Entamoeba histolytica. The protozoan organism is spread by unknowingly consuming its inactive form in food, and it affects the intestine. This parasite thrives on contaminated soil and fecal matter.


    Hepatitis A


    The condition mainly affects the liver and is caused by the Hepatitis A virus. The route of contamination is usually oral, while it also spreads through physical contact with an infected person. Hepatitis A patients experience common symptoms such as fever, nausea, and vomiting, but can suffer severe complications if they're not treated in time.




    This water-borne disease is transmitted through contaminated water, most often in ponds and streams. But it can also be found in a city's water supply, swimming pools, and more. The infection is caused by a parasite. It typically clears up after a few weeks. However, it's possible for those who have been exposed may experience intestinal problems for years to come.




    Malaria is a life-threatening condition spread by the Plasmodium parasite mosquito that multiplies in water bodies like lakes and stagnant water. Malaria can be fatal for people who have a weak immune system.


    Transmission of water-borne diseases


    Water-borne illnesses are transmitted by contaminated drinking water systems with fecal matter and urine of infected animals or people. The transmission of contaminated water is likely to happen where public drinking systems get their water supplies, such as surface waters - creeks, rivers, and lakes. Infected animals or humans may contaminate these sources of water. Water runoff from landfills, sewer pipes, septic fields, industrial or residential developments may also spread contamination. This has been the cause of a number of dramatic outbreaks of fecal-oral diseases such as typhoid or cholera. There are additional ways fecal material may reach a person's mouth, such as eating a contaminated or the person's hands. Generally, food that is contaminated is the most common way people become infected.




    • Make sure the water is visibly clean and free from sand and silt. Filter the water to remove visible dirt. Boil the water to kill microscopic pathogens.
    • Consume only clean and safe water – either portable water or water filtered through water purifiers.
    • Get water purifying devices regularly serviced and maintained.
    • Ensure stored water is germ-free.
    • Change water in the cooler frequently.
    • Empty and clean all the containers that hold water, such as pots, flower vase, etc.
    • Keep the surrounding area clean. Ensure there is no stagnant water which could shelter to water-borne pathogens.
    • Add antiseptic liquid in bathing water.
    • Hand hygiene - wash hands regularly with soap after returning home, after using the washrooms, before and after preparing and eating food.
    • Teach hand hygiene to children and the benefits of it and tell them to always wash their hands when returning home from outdoor.
    • Ensure food is washed and cooked thoroughly.
    • Avoid eating stale cooked food, unrefrigerated food that is kept outside for a long time.
    • Take complete vaccinations for immunization against preventable diseases like Typhoid, Hepatitis A, etc.


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