7 Most Common Water-Related Illnesses (Treatment & Prevention)

Waterborne infections affect hundreds of millions of people each year, particularly those living in underdeveloped nations without safe, accessible water. Waterborne sickness is caused by contaminated recreational or drinking water with disease-causing bacteria or pathogens. Several waterborne infections can also be acquired by consuming contaminated food or beverages, contact with animals or their habitat, or person-to-person transmission.

Diarrhoea is the most common symptom of the world’s seven most common waterborne illnesses. The World Health Organization reports that diarrhoea is the second biggest cause of mortality for children under the age of five, killing more children than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined. Read about seven waterborne diseases and how you can help prevent them right now.

What Exactly are Waterborne Diseases?

Waterborne diseases are illnesses caused by tiny organisms such as viruses and bacteria that enter the body through polluted water or contact with excrement.

These diseases would not exist if everyone on the earth could practise safe sanitation and hygiene and have access to clean water. In the last 20 years, governments, non-governmental organisations, and communities have made significant progress towards eliminating waterborne diseases. There is still much work to be done.

1. Cholera

Cholera is frequently seen in humanitarian crises or marginalised settlements where poverty and poor sanitation are prevalent. The sickness, which causes severe dehydration and diarrhoea, is spread through contaminated water. Cholera can be fatal within days or even hours of infection, but only one in every ten persons will develop life-threatening symptoms.

Symptoms of Cholera

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Cramps in the muscles

How to Prevent and Treat Cholera

Cholera is a waterborne infection that can be readily avoided while travelling. Wash your hands frequently, eat only fully cooked and hot foods (no sushi), and consume only vegetables that you can peel yourself, such as avocados, bananas, and oranges. Drink only safe water, of course.

When handwashing is not accessible, cholera can spread throughout a whole town. In underdeveloped nations such as Ethiopia, research shows that 40% of households lack the tools to properly wash their hands, which implies they lack safe water, soap, and a washing facility. For these populations, hygiene management and illness prevention are nearly impossible.

2. Typhoid Fever

Although uncommon in developed countries, typhoid fever is common in impoverished areas of developing countries; it is believed that up to 20 million individuals globally contract the sickness each year. It is very contagious and spreads through contaminated food, contaminated water, and inadequate sanitation.

Symptoms of Typhoid Fever

  • A fever that progressively worsens
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Constipation or diarrhoea

How to Prevent and Treat Typhoid Fever

Vaccination is suggested for those travelling to locations with inadequate sanitation and hazardous water. The vaccination can be given as a shot or taken orally over a period of time. To avoid it, avoid drinking any water that hasn’t been bottled and sealed, and avoid eating food from communities or street sellers. You can treat this with antibiotics. 

3. Giardia

This waterborne disease is spread by polluted water, most commonly in ponds and streams, although it can also be found in municipal water supplies, swimming pools, and other places. The infection is caused by a parasite and usually resolves within a few weeks. Those who have been exposed, however, may endure gut difficulties for years to come.

Symptoms of Giardia

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Cramps and bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Weight reduction

How to Prevent and Treat Giardia

While there is no giardia vaccination, there are simple strategies to avoid infection. Cleanse your hands frequently with soap, avoid swallowing water while swimming, and drink only bottled water. Giardia is usually defeated by the immune system on its own over time. If symptoms increase, though, doctors will prescribe anti-parasite and antibiotic drugs.

Water-stressed communities cannot protect themselves from illnesses like giardia, and treatment for this sickness can be prohibitively expensive for low-income families. As a result, Lifewater’s programmes emphasise long-term prevention. This includes building safe drinking water sources and teaching health habits one house at a time until the entire community has the resources and knowledge to prevent waterborne sickness.

4. Dysentery

Dysentery is a waterborne infection marked by severe diarrhoea as well as blood or mucus in the stool. Dysentery is a good reason to wash your hands frequently, as the disease is spread primarily through poor hygiene. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites in contaminated food and water, as well as by people coming into touch with faeces. If someone suffering from dysentery is unable to replace fluids rapidly enough, their life may be jeopardised.

Symptoms of Dysentery

  • Cramps and pain in the stomach
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration

How to Prevent and Treat Dysentery

To avoid dysentery, wash your hands frequently with soap, order all drinks without ice, avoid street food, and consume only fruits that can be peeled. While travelling in areas with a higher risk of dysentery, such as communities where proper hygiene practises are uncommon, drink only sealed, bottled water. Also, if a restaurant offers tap water, ask if they use a water filter tap just to be sure.

Mild dysentery normally resolves on its own with rest and drinks, although over-the-counter drugs like Pepto-Bismol can assist with stomach cramping. Antibiotics can be used to treat more severe instances, however, certain forms of the disease are resistant.

5. Escherichia Coli (E. coli)

E. coli is a bacteria that comes in a variety of strains, some of which are harmful and others of which are good. For instance, E. E. coli bacterium is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system.

However, if the animal waste has gotten onto farms where produce is produced, or if E. coli are disseminated through the process of manufacturing ground beef, consumers who ingest these goods could encounter symptoms of the waterborne infection. The bacteria have also been detected in contaminated water sources around the world where humans and cattle cohabit.

Signs of potentially hazardous E. The symptoms of E. coli are similar to those of dysentery and other watery illnesses. The majority of E. If you’re looking for a home run. If diarrhoea involves blood, consult a doctor if you feel you were exposed to contaminated food or water.

How to Prevent and Treat E. coli 

Always avoid water that has been contaminated by human or animal faeces (like ponds, rivers, and swamps). If you’re going to eat ground beef, be sure it’s well-cooked. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, wash your hands frequently and drink only safe water.

Drink plenty of safe water, rest, and take over-the-counter diarrhoea medicine to treat the sickness.

6. Hepatitis A 

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by consuming contaminated food and water or coming into close contact with someone infected with the virus. Individuals who frequently go to underdeveloped nations or operate in rural communities with poor sanitation and hygiene management are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A 

  • Fatigue
  • Bowel motions that are clay coloured
  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Abdominal pain, particularly near the liver
  • Appetite loss
  • Acute fever

The illness normally clears up in a few weeks, but it can grow severe and continue for months.

How to Prevent and Treat Hepatitis A 

Getting the vaccine is the most effective strategy to avoid hepatitis A. Consume only completely cooked and hot dishes, and avoid eating anything at room temperature. Eat only fruit that you can peel and have peeled yourself. Don’t eat from street vendors, and avoid runny eggs and raw/rare meat.

After contracting hepatitis A, a person develops immunity and is unlikely to contract it again. Then there’s no end in site. If you have hepatitis A, you should relax, avoid alcohol, and drink plenty of fluids. The sickness will pass, and full recovery is expected in three months.

7. Salmonella

The majority of salmonella illnesses are caused by consuming contaminated food or water. Undercooked meat, egg products, fruits, and vegetables are also potential carriers of the disease. Most people do not experience difficulties, but children, pregnant women, older adults, and persons with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable.

Symptoms of Salmonella

  • Blood in the stool
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea

How to Prevent and Treat Salmonella

Cook thoroughly and store or freeze within 30 minutes before usage when preparing your own food. Touching birds or reptiles should be avoided, and as always, wash your hands frequently.

Salmonella infection causes dehydration in the body. Drink fluids and electrolytes to treat it. Serious infections may necessitate hospitalisation and antibiotics.