CDC Reports: Waterborne Disease Outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released two reports describing waterborne disease outbreaks: Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water—United States, 2013–2014 and Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Associated with Environmental and Undetermined Exposures to Water—United States, 2013–2014. These reports describe 69 waterborne disease outbreaks reported from 2013 to 2014.

One of the most important public health achievements of the 20th Century included access to safe drinking water for nearly all Americans through water treatment and disinfection. Outbreak surveillance data play a critical role in monitoring and ensuring continued waterborne disease prevention. These data also help point to causes of water-related illnesses so that threats to safe water, including aging infrastructure (e.g., water treatment plants and distribution systems), can be addressed.

3 Things to Know

  • Most outbreaks (42) resulted from exposures to drinking water, with an additional 15 caused by environmental exposures to water (rivers, streams or cooling towers), and 12 exposures to water that couldn’t be determined.
  • Legionella caused half of the 42 drinking water associated, resulting in 88% of hospitalizations and 13 deaths.
  • This is the first time CDC has reported drinking water outbreaks associated with harmful algal blooms.

Read the reports to learn more about the burden of waterborne diseases.

About Kim Rodgers

Kim Rodgers serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments’ best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in infectious disease and preparedness through NACCHO’s communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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