Diseases Diseases

What Is A Water Borne Disease?


Water is the basis of all life on the earth. It wouldn’t even be possible for us to survive for one day without water. But, this same water can become extremely lethal when contaminated. History has shown that a water borne disease can wipe out entire civilizations.


Nature has a way of ensuring that the water in all natural resources is fit for consumption. However, water often becomes contaminated due to unsanitary practices. Water borne disease is generally a result of direct or indirect contact with contaminated water. Contaminated water contains pathogens. Pathogens are microorganisms which attack a host such as a plant or an animal and infect it. In humans, pathogens generally invade the digestive tract and subsequently affect the circulatory system by entering the blood stream.

Diarrhea is the most common water borne disease. It has claimed millions of lives in countries with unhygienic sanitation practices. More than two and a half million people fell prey to diarrhea in the year 2009 alone. Children and adults are equally susceptible to this water borne disease. Rotavirus, salmonellae and e-coli are the most common carriers of diarrhea. A typical symptom of diarrhea is passing loose stools more than thrice a day. This high frequency of bowel motion causes loss of essential fluids and this can lead be fatal among malnourished individuals. Blood in the stools, is an indication of water borne disease – dysentery. Dysentery is a result of an attack on the tissues of the bowels.

If the urine or feces of a person suffering from water borne disease enter a source of water; then the source too becomes contaminated and this can lead to an epidemic. This situation is very common in developing countries. Flies are also leading contributors to the spread of such diseases as they transmit pathogenic microorganisms when they come into contact with feces.


Malaria can also be considered to be a water borne disease. When the female anopheles mosquito lays eggs in stagnant water, these eggs hatch into larvae which develop into more mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are careers of the malaria virus – this means that once a mosquito bites a person with malaria; then it will transfer the malaria virus to every subsequent person who is bitten by it. Malaria is also a leading cause of death in countries like Angola and Ivory Coast. In 2009, malaria accounted for the deaths of almost 800,000 people worldwide.

Hepatitis, Dengue, typhoid and cholera are other examples of water borne disease. Such diseases plague regions which are affected by natural disasters like tsunamis and floods. They are also very common causes of fatalities in areas receiving a high amount of rainfall.

Tips and Comments

Water borne diseases are often associated with poor countries. This is because poor countries lack the infrastructure that is necessary to ward off such diseases. The easiest way to prevent a water borne disease is to maintain hygiene. Other effective ways to control such diseases include proper sanitation and treatment of sewage. Vaccination has also helped to curb certain water borne diseases. Boiling water before consumption is perhaps the best way to kill any pathogens that may be present in it.

By Sia Attavar, published at 02/27/2012
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