The Romans provided safe drinking water

Provision of safe drinking water in the United States is a great public health achievement. However, new waterborne disease challenges have emerged (e.g., aging infrastructure, chlorine-tolerant and biofilm-related pathogens, increased recreational water use).

Comprehensive estimates of the health burden for all water exposure routes (ingestion, contact, inhalation) and sources (drinking, recreational, environmental) are needed. We estimated total illnesses, emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, deaths, and direct healthcare costs for 17 waterborne infectious diseases. About 7.15 million waterborne illnesses occur annually (95% credible interval [CrI] 3.88 million–12.0 million), results in 601,000 ED visits (95% CrI 364,000–866,000), 118,000 hospitalizations (95% CrI 86,800–150,000), and 6,630 deaths (95% CrI 4,520–8,870) and incurring US $3.33 billion (95% CrI 1.37 billion–8.77 billion) in direct healthcare costs.

Otitis externa and norovirus infection were the most common illnesses. Most hospitalizations and deaths were caused by biofilm-associated pathogens (nontuberculous mycobacteria, Pseudomonas, Legionella), costing US $2.39 billion annually.

Estimate of burden ad direct healthcare cost of infectious waterborne disease in the United States

Emerging Infectious Diseases vol. 2 no. 1

Sarah A. Collier , Li Deng, Elizabeth A. Adam, Katharine M. Benedict, Elizabeth M. Beshearse, Anna J. Blackstock, Beau B. Bruce, Gordana Derado, Chris Edens, Kathleen E. Fullerton, Julia W. Gargano, Aimee L. Geissler, Aron J. Hall, Arie H. Havelaar, Vincent R. Hill, Robert M. Hoekstra, Sujan C. Reddy, Elaine Scallan, Erin K. Stokes, Jonathan S. Yoder, and Michael J. Beach