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July 15th, 2010
04:23 PM ET

CDC: Waterborne disease a costly problem in the U.S.

Hospitalizations from 3 preventable waterborne diseases – Legionnaire's disease, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis – could cost the U.S an estimated $539 million dollars each year, finds new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Waterborne disease in the United States continues to be a significant national problem, accounting for millions of cases annually," write the authors in the report, which was presented Wednesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"When people think about these diseases, they usually think of a simple case of diarrhea," says Michael Beach who heads water and environment Activity for the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases.  Beach says diarrhea is a "nuisance",  but both patients and public health officials should be aware that's not the only concern.

"These infections can cause severe illness that often result in hospital stays of more than a week," Beach says.

According to the study authors, low-cost interventions like increased public education campaigns, better maintenance of building water systems, and regular inspection of pools and other recreational water facilities, could help reduce the "large and hidden burden" of hospitalization costs associated with developing these conditions.

Legionnaires' disease

According to the CDC...
the average cost per patient:         $31,000
the average hospital stay:               10 days

Legionella pneumophila is bacteria that thrives in warm, damp environments, and are often commonly found on indoor whirlpools and spas, decorative fountains on faucets and shower heads and even in pipes. The CDC estimates between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease each year. Click here for more information on symptoms and prevention.

Cryptosporidiosis

According to the CDC...
the average cost per patient:         $19,400
the average hospital stay:               6 days

Cryptosporidium parasites are among the most common causes of diarrhea in humans. The parasite is found on surfaces contaminated by feces. They're tricky to prevent because they are protected by an outer shell, making them resistant to many chlorine-based disinfectants and water filters.  Click here for more information on symptoms and prevention.

Giardiasis:

According to the CDC....
the average cost per patient:         $9,900
the average hospital stay:               4 days

Giardia is a parasite found in lakes, rivers, streams and ponds around the world, that can live in the intestines of people who mistakenly swallow contaminated water. According to the CDC, children in diapers and people with diarrhea may accidentally contaminate pools and spas. Click here for more information on symptoms and prevention.


soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. SurRy

    I swear we are becoming more and more like a third world country. No money to spend at home for the social welfare of our citizens, but plenty of money to spend in other countries killing people. Shame.

    July 15, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Wayne

    I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal where giardia infections were a common ailment. Most of us treated these infections with a simple medication and were back to normal in a few days. No way was the cost nearly 9,900 USD. I hardly see the need for hospitalization unless there are severe complications.

    July 15, 2010 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jose

      Good to know. Thanks.

      July 15, 2010 at 23:27 | Report abuse |
  3. Waterfalls

    I bet most people who get crypto/giardia just think they had food-poisoning.

    July 16, 2010 at 03:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Waterfalls

    (Meaning it's probably really common.) I love how they say, "Avoid swallowing water" when you swim, like that is possible. Not if you are swimming underwater, people are splashing, and you go on the water-slide ten times Then you might catch these "bugs," and they aren't really saying if there are long-term effects.

    July 16, 2010 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dan

    My wife and I have been very concerned about water conditions for several years now. When we built we had a tiled shallow well installed because of the hard water at deeper levels. But with it came the first test failure. Coli form present but no e-coli. We do not like the thoughts of drinking water with chlorine even at safe levels, if you can call any level of chlorine safe in water. I tried to do as much research as possible and found that the first issue was to make sure the grade around the well is such that run off surface water does not pool near the tile. But that is not the answer in whole. That will not do a thing for soil bacteria – coli form. So it was on to constructing what seems to work very well for us. I first start by having the water travel through a 10 micron whole house filter. Then it passes through a 5 micron filter. From that point the water travels through a 3 foot sterilight uv reactor tube and then through a (point) .35 micron filter. We have the water tested each time the uv lamp is changed (annually). There are other precautions we do such as a chlorine rinse to the inner well usually in the spring after the water level resides. The chlorine is then taken out of the system with a garden hose until the test tape drops back to normal. This is not the correct method for everyone and does take a great deal of research before even thinking about it as shallow wells are highly susceptible to surface water contamination. Other considerations are location. Isolated locations away from roads, and other dangerous contaminates such as pesticides and fertilizers can cause great risks. A .35 micron whole house water filter is the main clue though. Without it organisms can still pass by the uv reactor and allow organisms into your drinking water. Beaver fever / Giardiasis is a potential and real threat when living near brooks and streams. So in saying all of this, do not even attempt trying our method for your own use. You do the homework for yourself online and make your own determination about what system works well for you.

    July 16, 2010 at 08:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. anushath

    Water Born diseases are the prevailing health issue. In US, a large amount of income is spending on health related issues. People do not left with enough money to maintain their Living standards as a large part of money is going in hospital bills and medicines.

    March 13, 2014 at 01:26 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.