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About 70% of the Earth’s surface consists of water. It is fundamental for all forms of life on Earth. However, contaminated water spread diseases that can also be harmful to forms of life, particularly to human beings. Once water is contaminated, it can contain viral, protozoan, or bacterial organisms that can cause various illnesses. Infections are commonly transmitted through drinking, washing, bathing, preparation, and consumption of food when contaminated water is used. According to the World Health Organization, there are about 1.8 million deaths annually that are caused by waterborne diseases. Underdeveloped and third world countries are often the ones that suffer from such diseases due to limited supply of water. Undoubtedly, waterborne diseases are considered to be an important health issue all around the world. A waterborne disease is coined to refer to infections that are mainly transmitted through ingestion or contact with infected water. Waterborne diseases are primarily caused by microorganisms such as bacteria and protozoa, numerous of which are intestinal parasites. These microorganisms can also cause the disease through infesting the circulatory system or tissues of the digestive tract. Viruses and metazoan parasites also cause several waterborne diseases. Some of the most popular waterborne diseases include hepatitis A, leptospirosis, diarrhea, and amoebiasis.

Infectious hepatitis or hepatitis A is a severe infectious disease triggered by the hepatitis A virus, which is generally transmitted through the fecal-oral course; it can be also transferred from person to person through digestion of contaminated water or food or by straight contact with an infected individual. Hepatitis A usually occurs in places where overcrowding and poor sanitation are present. Food-borne epidemics are not rare, but contaminated water still plays a part in such cases. For instance, an individual who eats and digests a shellfish that was cultivated in dirty and contaminated water runs a great risk of being infected. This disease can be also transmitted by blood or parenteral way, but it is very rare. Hepatitis A symptoms are quite similar to influenza. However, sometimes with children no symptoms are evident at all. Symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, yellowing of the whites of one’s eyes or one’s skin, and appetite loss usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after the infection infiltrates the person’s system. These symptoms normally last for 2 months but extreme cases can last longer. No specific cure or treatment has been discovered for hepatitis A, but those who suffer from it are advised to avoid alcohol and fatty food, follow a balanced diet, take ample rest, and drink a lot of water. Hepatitis A can be also prevented through sanitation, good hygiene, and vaccination.

Leptospirosis is another waterborne disease caused by an infection with bacteria. It is transmitted via urine of an infested animal and it is very transmissible. The prime hosts of the bacteria that cause leptospirosis are animals such as moles, mice, and rats. Other mammals like cows, dogs, hedgehogs, sheep, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, and some marine mammals also carry and spread the infection as a secondary host. Humans can be infected through soil, food, or water contact if they contain urine from such infected mammals. The transmission of this disease can be through direct contact (skin contact) or through consumption of contaminated water or food. Leptospirosis is more common in individuals who are into water sports, since the bacteria are more cultured with sustained immersion in water. Leptospirosis is also commonly acquired when an individual is splashed with contaminated water and they have an open wound or scar. This disease can lead to severe fatigue, respiratory difficulties, meningitis, hearing loss, and sometimes even liver and renal failure. There are treatments available to cure leptospirosis. The contributing agent must first be subdued to fight further complications. Drugs such as penicillin and amoxicillin are just a few of the antibiotics that are used to cure leptospirosis.

Diarrhea is one of the most widespread waterborne diseases in our society today. It is the condition when an individual experiences three or more loose bowel movements daily. It is the 2nd most widespread cause of infant deaths in the whole world and a very common cause of death in third world countries. Loss of fluids caused by diarrhea can trigger electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Diarrhea has several causes, one of which is consumption or intake of contaminated and polluted water. In countries with dry and wet seasons, outbreaks are more common during wet seasons, since water quality gets worse during this time. Countries with all four seasons experience more diarrhea outbreaks during the winter season. Diarrhea in infants is common, since baby bottles that are not sanitized properly can lead to the transmission of infection.

The amoeba Entamoeba histolytica causes the infection known as amoebiasis. Typically transmitted through the fecal-oral course, amoebiasis can be also transferred to an individual indirectly by dirty objects or hands plus anal-oral contact. This infection is normally spread via the absorption of the swelling form of a parasite found in feces. This disease is generally transmitted by contaminated water and food. An estimated 100,000 people die because of amoebiasis each year all over the world.

These waterborne diseases are continuously spreading due to the contamination of drinking water resources with feces and urine of infected individuals and animals. In most cases, contaminated water arises when drinking water resources are obtained from surface water sources such as lakes, rain, rivers, and creeks. Runoff coming from septic fields, landfills, residential as well as industrial developments, and sewer pipes also lead to water contamination.

Waterborne diseases have a substantial impact on local and international economies. Individuals who suffer from waterborne diseases are normally faced with related and associated costs and most of the time with a big financial weight. This is more typical of countries that are less developed. Financial problems arise, as these diseases need meticulous medication and medical treatments, and special food or diet. Infected individuals are also required to take time off their work bringing them a heavier financial burden. Families with infected members even sell some of their properties or land to pay for the medical treatments needed.

In third world countries, about four-fifths of all disorders or sicknesses are waterborne diseases. Diarrhea is the primary cause of childhood deaths in developing countries. Water and health issues continue to be a global problem with about 1.1 billion people still having inadequate access to drinking water resources and around 2.4 billion people having insufficient sanitation. At present, water, sanitation, and other hygiene-associated diseases cause over 2 million deaths annually.

In order to reduce the outbreak of these waterborne diseases, clean water is a pre-requisite. The wide spread of waterborne diseases could be significantly reduced once clean drinking water is sufficiently available for everyone and feces are properly and safely disposed. Since water ingestion is something that everybody does every day (bathing, drinking water, swimming, and so on), protection of water integrity should be intensified and improved.

An outbreak is defined by the Centers for Disease Control as an illness with two or more cases that can be traced to a common source. Since the symptoms of waterborne diseases are usually brief and mild, it is estimated that only a fraction of outbreaks are recognized, reported, and investigated. Experts also believe that food-related disease outbreaks can also be traced back to an initial infection (for example, of a food handler or worker) caused by drinking contaminated water. Waterborne diseases caused by bacteria, protozoa, and viruses are the foremost concern in the field. Combatting these unwanted pathogens in the drinking water is straightforward — simply adding a disinfectant, permitting suitable interaction time to assure the inability of microbes to produce diseases before pumping the water to the distribution lines. However, in reality, the abovementioned course of action is hardly applicable to many situations. Many factors affect the disinfection process; among them are suspended solids, dissolved oxygen content, physical characteristics of the water, chemical contents, and so on. These factors usually hinder the ability of the disinfectants to perform their function. Also, some advanced microbes and life forms (for example, algae and worms,) are protected against the disinfectants.

Countries and local organizations should continuously promote the improvement of water resources, especially drinking water, to avoid and prevent waterborne diseases. Routes of transmission of these diseases should be continuously managed and interrupted. People should also help in their own way to prevent these diseases. Food should be kept away from flies in order to avoid feces-flies-food transmission. Organic wastes as well as animal wastes should be disposed at the right places to avoid flies hovering all over one’s house. Proper hygiene and sanitation should be observed at all times. Hand washing should be done as much as possible in order to prevent diseases. Proper disposal of feces should be practiced as well. Wells and pumps should be properly maintained both at the household and community levels.

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