KENILWORTH, N.J., Aug. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The increased attention on water sanitation issues in Rio has raised
Originating in oceans, lakes, rivers or pools, these hidden dangers can cause illnesses that range from uncomfortable and inconvenient to life threatening. To shed light on these dangers, infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush has identified five waterborne illnesses to be aware of when heading to the water and key steps to preventing them on MerckManuals.com:
1. Giardiasis is an infection of the small intestine caused by the parasite Giardia, which lives in fresh water. The most common parasitic intestinal infection in the United States, Giardia can be present even in clean-appearing mountain streams, so hikers are at risk.
Symptoms typically appear one or two weeks after infection and include abdominal cramps, gas and watery diarrhea. If you think you have Giardiasis, make an appointment with a doctor, who will likely ask for a stool sample. Treatment typically involves a course of antiparasitic drugs.
2. Shigellosis is an infection caused by the bacteria Shigella. An estimated 500,000 people in the U.S. develop the infection every year from water contaminated with human waste and inadequately chlorinated pools. Individuals don't have to ingest very much water contaminated with Shigella to become infected.
Symptoms include fever and diarrhea along with painful abdominal cramps. More severe infections may lead to dysentery – frequent bowel movements that may contain blood, mucus and pus. Treatment for Shigellosis includes fluids with salt and antibiotics for more severe cases.
3. Vibriosis is an infection caused by about a dozen Vibrio bacteria. Cholera is the most serious illness caused by the bacteria, but is not very common in the U.S. Noncholera Vibrio bacteria live in warm salt water or mixed salt and fresh water, like bays. Most noncholera Vibrio infections are intestinal infections caused by consuming inadequately cooked shellfish (especially oysters) harvested from contaminated waters. People can also develop Vibrio skin infections if they have an open cut and swim in contaminated water or cut themselves on a crustacean that harbors vibrio.
Vibriosis causes 80,000 illnesses each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Treatment is limited to drinking lots of water to replace lost fluids.
4. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a group of bacteria that normally reside in the intestine of healthy people. However, some strains can cause infection, the most common being E. coli O157:H7. It can be contracted by swallowing inadequately chlorinated water that's been contaminated by the stool of infected individuals, for example in public pools.
Symptoms, primarily diarrhea and cramps, begin about three days after exposure. For E. coli 0157:H7, treatment is usually limited to administering fluids, and symptoms typically resolve within eight days.
5. Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) is an infection of the brain caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. The amoeba lives in warm fresh water throughout the world and enters the brain by traveling up nerves from the nose. PAM is rare, only 138 people have died from it since 1962, according to the CDC, however it has recently made headlines in the U.S.
When the amoeba reaches the brain, it causes inflammation, tissue death and bleeding. Symptoms, which appear within one to two weeks, include a change in smell or taste, headache and stiff neck, sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting. The infection moves fast, often causing death within 10 days.
Keys to prevention
The most effective prevention strategies go hand in hand with good overall health – make sure all vaccinations are up to date, drink only properly treated water and practice good personal hygiene. But there are more specific steps you can take before, during and after you go in the water to limit the risk.
Before you go in the water:
During your time in the water:
After you get out of the water:
About The Merck Manuals and MSD Manuals
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