Waterborne diseases are those in which the consumption of or exposure to water and/or water systems lead to illness. Common waterborne diseases include, but are not limited to giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, vibriosis, shigellosis, and legionellosis. Gastrointestinal, respiratory, and wound infections are typical signs and symptoms of these diseases. These diseases implicate compromised water sanitation and safety that have the potential to affect a large number of people.
A subset of waterborne diseases include recreational water illnesses (RWI), which are caused by pathogens found in the water we swim in. These types of illnesses are indicative of poor maintenance of recreational waters, including water parks and public swimming pools. When multiple people become ill following exposure to recreational water(s), identification of a common source outbreak may result.
Untreated waters, such as lakes and beaches, also harbor pathogens that cause RWI. Without monitoring or maintenance of chemical levels, organisms that naturally exist in these environments may flourish. The Coastal Alabama Beach Monitoring Program, a collaboration between ADPH and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, assesses water quality of different sites in Alabama. Visit the websites for coastal conditions and the Coastal Alabama Beach Monitoring Program before planning your next coastal trip.
In Alabama, waterborne diseases affect hundreds of residents annually. It is our responsibility, as public health officials, to monitor, prevent, and mitigate waterborne-associated illness.
- Healthy and Safe Swimming Week 2018: The week before Memorial Day (May 21–27, 2018) is National Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. The goal of this week is to maximize the health benefits of swimming by promoting healthy and safe water activities. Just 2.5 hours of water-based (or other forms of) physical exercise per week has health benefits for everyone. Each of us plays a role in preventing illnesses and injuries linked to the water we share and swim in, this summer and year-round. Check out our Pool Safety Music Video for more information.
- ADPH Releases Information on Bacteria Found in Untreated Waters: ADPH News Release - July 2017
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) beaches website
- Model Aquatic Health Code 2nd Edition
- Healthy Swimming Tips
- Conduct your own inspection before getting into any treated water. For more details, click here.
- Healthy and Safe Swimming Week
- Learn more about oceans, lakes, and rivers
- W – Water and diarrhea do not mix! Don’t swim when sick with diarrhea
- A – Always practice good swimming hygiene; shower before you get in the water
- T – Take kids on frequent bathroom breaks
- E – Educate yourself and others on healthy swimming
- R – Report if you have a fecal incident while swimming
Page last updated: May 21, 2018