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Water-borne Illness

Water-borne illness can occur when someone drinks water that is contaminated with pathogens (such as bacteria, viruses or parasites) or chemicals and become ill. Water can become contaminated by pets, livestock or wild animals. As well, run-off from septic fields and sewers can contribute to contaminating the water.
 
The majority of cases of water-borne illness are caused from drinking un-treated raw water from lakes, rivers, and streams.
 
Signs and symptoms of water-borne illness include:
  • Severe stomach cramps.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • In rare cases, death.
 
Symptoms may occur within a few hours of drinking contaminated water or up to many days later.
 
People that are most likely to become sick are:
  • Children and infants.
  • Elderly people.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Immuno-compromised individuals. 
Some common causes of water-borne illness are:
 
E.coli
A bacteria typically found in any type of body of water. It can cause severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. 
 
Crytosporidium
A parasite found in lakes, rivers and streams. It can cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
 
Giardia
 A parasite found in lakes, rivers and streams. It can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea as well as prolonged infections such as arthritis.

 
Water-borne pathogens can be removed from drinking water by using a water treatment system. Information on water treatment systems can be found here.
 
The Northwestern Health Unit advises all people to use bottled water or water brought to a rolling boil for up to a minute for cooking and drinking if you take un-treated water from a lake, river or stream.

For more information please contact a Public Health Inspector during work hours at your local health unit office.
 
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