Waterborne Diseases and Illnesses

Waterborne Diseases and Illnesses

Waterborne Diseases and Illnesses
graphic of hand holding a cup of water with a microscope showing particles in it

Would you want to go swimming in a pool of bugs, worms, and chemicals? In some natural water sources, you actually would be! You just wouldn’t be able to see them. Tiny organisms like bacteria, viruses, and parasites may live in our water supplies. Chemicals and heavy metals can get into our water, too. If you drink that water, wash your food with it, or swim or bathe in it, it might make you sick.

We call these illnesses waterborne diseases because people get them from contaminated (unsafe) water. The water can also be harmful to animals. It may cause minor or serious illness, or even death. Contaminated water can lead to disease outbreaks in a local area, country, or across the world.

Some content courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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Did you know the largest waterborne disease outbreak in United States history happened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1993? Over 400,000 people got sick when a parasite was found in the city's drinking water supply.