CDC Estimate Waterborne Disease

Last October during the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) stakeholder meeting on potential revisions to the Microbial and DBP regulations (under the SDWA’s requirement to review regulations every six years), a representative from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) presented information on her agency’s latest estimate of waterborne disease in the United States.  She noted the following:

  • Safe drinking water and sanitation in the United States is one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. However, waterborne illness persists and new public health challenges are emerging, due to aging infrastructure, chlorine-tolerant and biofilm-associated pathogens, and increasing recreational water use.
  • The study estimates that waterborne pathogens cause approximately 7.15 million illnesses, 118,000 hospitalizations, and 6,630 deaths every year.
  • Common diseases like otitis externa (swimmer’s ear), norovirus infection, giardiasis, and cryptosporidiosis account for 95% of all waterborne illnesses.
  • Despite accounting for a small proportion of overall illnesses, three biofilm-related pathogens (nontuberculous mycobacteria, Legionella, and Pseudomonas) cause the majority of hospitalizations and the largest number of deaths related to waterborne disease.
  • Biofilm-related pathogens are responsible for over 75% of the $3.3 billion in direct healthcare costs.
  • The findings from this analysis highlight the evolving epidemiology of waterborne disease in the United States, the increasing role of biofilm-associated pathogens, and the need to focus public health resources to prevent and control these infections.

At the annual meeting of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) this month, CDC staff indicated that publication of their report is expected in the January issue of the Journal of Emerging Infectious Disease.  The American Water Works Association (AWWA) circulated an alert to utility members that the paper is expected to be available today.

CDC posted the article at the following location:

Also note that CDC created a web site to help homeowners understand what they can do to manage microbial risks: