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Waterborne Diseases & Their Causes

Clean and safe water is essential for human health, but unfortunately, not everyone has access to it. Waterborne diseases are a significant global concern, affecting millions of people every year. In this blog post, we will explore what waterborne diseases are, how they spread, the most common types, and effective preventive measures to safeguard against them.

What are Waterborne Diseases?

Waterborne diseases are illnesses caused by pathogenic microorganisms that are transmitted through contaminated water. These microorganisms can include bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other harmful agents. When these pathogens enter the human body through drinking water or other means of water consumption, they can lead to various health issues and infections.

Most Common Waterborne Diseases:

Several waterborne diseases are prevalent worldwide. The most common ones include:

  • Cholera: Caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, cholera leads to severe diarrhea and dehydration.
  • Typhoid fever: Resulting from the Salmonella Typhi bacterium, typhoid fever causes high fever, abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal issues.
  • Hepatitis A: A viral infection affecting the liver, hepatitis A spreads through contaminated water or food.
  • Dysentery: Dysentery, caused by bacteria like Shigella or amoeba like Entamoeba histolytica, causes severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever.
  • Giardiasis: Giardiasis is caused by the protozoan parasite Giardia lamblia and leads to gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

How are Waterborne Diseases Spread?

Waterborne diseases spread primarily through the ingestion of contaminated water. Contamination can occur due to various factors, such as:

  • Faecal-oral transmission: Pathogens from human or animal faeces enter water sources, contaminating them. This can happen through inadequate sanitation, improper sewage disposal, or the proximity of water sources to sewage or livestock.
  • Contaminated water sources: Natural water bodies like lakes, rivers, and ponds can become contaminated if they are exposed to sewage or industrial waste.
  • Inadequate water treatment: Insufficient or ineffective water treatment processes can fail to eliminate harmful pathogens, allowing them to remain in the water supply.  Unfortunately many parts of the developing world still lack adequate water sanitation facilities and have no choice but to drink from poorly sanitised water sources. 
  • Inadequate personal hygiene: Poor personal hygiene practices, such as not washing hands properly, can contribute to the spread of waterborne diseases.

How to Prevent Waterborne Diseases:

Prevention plays a crucial role in combating waterborne diseases. Sadly this just isn’t always possible in the developing world or at times of natural disaster or conflict, so emergency water sanitisation is needed to bridge the gap. 

Water treatments such as filtration, chlorination and UV disinfection are commonly employed to treat unsanitary water and reduce pathogens.   Water purification tablets are proven to purify water and make it safe to drink almost immediately. 

Hydrachem is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of water purification tablets, trusted globally for over 50 years to make over 2 billion litres of water safe to drink.  Our water purification tablets destroy microorganisms in water to prevent dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera and other common water borne illnesses. 

Waterborne diseases continue to pose significant health risks to communities worldwide. By understanding the causes, common types and preventive measures, we can take proactive steps to combat these diseases. Proper access to water sanitation systems is crucial to combating water borne diseases worldwide but where that isn’t possible, emergency measures are needed to make sure no-one goes a day without safe drinking water.