Diseases Diseases

What Are The Causes Of Water Borne Diseases

Published at 01/13/2012 10:51:45


Clean and germ-free drinking water is very essential for personal and public health. Contamination of potable (drinking) water can cause water borne diseases in several ways:

  • Sewage if improperly disposed of, leaks into sub soil and may contaminate water supplies. 
  • People defecating and urinating near lakes, rivers or ponds may contribute to contamination of water. 
  • Animal wastes and washings from dairies, poultries etc. may also be drained into water bodies.
Besides the above principal sources of contamination, there can be a variety of industrial and agriculture wastes that may contain poisonous chemicals and can be harmful to human health. For example: 
  • Industrial wastes containing mercury causes abnormalities in the nervous system
  • Tannery wastes contain the pathogen anthrax bacilli and are the most serious water pollutants. 
  • Pesticides especially DDT are most serious water pollutants, pesticide concentration in human cause hormonal imbalance, leading to cancer.
  • Presence of fluorides in drinking water cause tooth disorders, bone disorder and in higher concentration it causes neuro-muscular disorders and may be fatal to life.


In case the water supply agencies are not very cautious in purifying water, the residents of the area may suffer from three common diseases - Cholera, typhoid and dysentery which may take the form of severe epidemics. 

1. Cholera - The main points are as follows: 

  • Infection of intestinal tract is by bacillus Vibrio cholerae.
  • It appears as sudden onset with sickness and severe diarrhea and vomiting.
  • No urination due to shortage of water in the body, urea accumulates in the blood which is highly poisonous and causes death. 
Infection of cholera occurs through contaminated water and also by dust and flies that sit on excreta and may transfer germs to exposed foods. Food handlers with dirty hands can also transmit germs. 
2. Typhoid
Typhoid bacteria enter the body with food and water which have been somehow contaminated by the excreta of patients. This occurs when sewage leaks into the wells or supply tanks. Dust and flies also contaminate the food. 
3. Dysentery
There are two forms of dysentery - bacillary and amoebic. 
Bacillary dysentery - The causative agent is a bacterium. It occurs frequently among children. The disease is marked by loose motions (diarrhea) intestinal pain and mild fever. Patients are treated with antibiotics. Prevention includes drinking safe water and preventing flies from contaminating food. 
Amoebic dysentery - The causative agent is a protozoan entamoeba histolytica.
  • This organism enters our body through contaminated water and food. It establishes in the lining of large intestine where it feeds by engulfing red blood cells of the patient's intestine. This amoeba has no contractile vacuole and bears one large blunt pseudopodium. 
  • When fully mature it forms cysts which pass out through faeces. The cysts remain active for a long time. On reaching a new host through contaminated water and food they split off to clear new individual.


Preventive methods include good sanitation, killing flies, keeping the food and cut fruits properly covered to prevent flies reaching them, boiling water for drinking and eating well-cooked food. Immunization by taking injection will be useful.

Tips and comments

Patients need to be treated promptly and properly.


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