Waterborne diseases are spread when people drink contaminated water or eat food that has been prepared with contaminated water. Common waterborne illnesses include typhoid, cholera, dysentery, gastroenteritis, and hepatitis. These diseases result when human and animal wastes enter and contaminate water supplies.
Many waterborne illnesses are diarrheal diseases, including cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis. These intestinal disorders are caused by Cryptosporidium and Giardia, which are microscopic parasites in water. In addition to severe diarrhea, they may also cause fever, cramps, nausea, weight loss, and dehydration. These diseases can be life threatening for those who are already sick or for people like children and the elderly, who may have compromised immune systems.
Cholera is another waterborne disease, caused by bacteria, that spawns epidemic health problems in much of the developing world—especially in Asia and Africa. Cholera can cause deadly diarrhea and, though many people survive infection, it can be a particularly dangerous disease for the malnourished.
Typhoid is a waterborne disease that affects some 17 million people each year. The ailment is caused by pathogenic bacteria in a victim’s intestinal tract and bloodstream. Typhoid symptoms include a severe fever, malaise, headache, constipation or diarrhea, chest spotting and an enlarged liver and spleen.
Typhoid is spread by human waste, and by waters contaminated with waste in locales where proper sanitation services are absent.