Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – Febuary 4th, 2005

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

February 4, 2005

EPA Announces New Aircraft Drinking Water Quality Data

The latest round of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing of passenger aircraft shows that 17.2 percent of the 169 randomly selected aircraft carried water contaminated with total coliform bacteria. None of the aircraft however tested positive for E. coli. The tests were conducted on domestic and international passenger aircraft at airports nationwide in November and December 2004.

Total coliform and E. coli are indicators that disease-causing pathogens may exist in water and may be impacting public health. The EPA tested a total of 327 aircraft in 2004 with roughly 15 percent found to be total coliform positive. Aircraft identified with total coliform were disinfected and retested to ensure that the disinfections were successful.

As a result of the test results, the EPA is conducting a priority review of current regulations and guidelines and is placing specific emphasis on preventive measures, adequate monitoring and sound maintenance practices such as flushing and disinfection of aircraft water systems.

To review the EPA aircraft test results, please go to:
CDC Releases Health Surveillance Data on Cryptosporidiosis and Giardiasis

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its latest results from surveillance of giardiasis for 1998-2002 and cryptosporidiosis for 1999-2002. According to the data cited in the report, cases of illness due to the pathogens fluctuated over the course of the study. The total number cases of giardiasis reported to CDC decreased from 24,226 in1998 to 19,708 in 2001, then increased to 21,300 in 2002, reflecting an overall 12% decrease in reported cases. Conversely, the total number of reported cases of cryptosporidiosis increased from 2,769 in 1999 to 3,787 in 2001, then decreased to 3,016 for 2002, marking an 8.9% surge in infection occurrences over the course of the study.

Giardiasis is a gastrointestinal illness caused by the protozoan parasite Giardia intestinalis and the gastrointestinal illness cryptosporidiosis introduced by protozoa of the genus Cryptosporidium. The CDC data documented that a larger number of cases of both giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis were reported for children between the ages 1-9 years and for adults aged 30-39 with peak onset of illness occurring annually during early summer through early fall.

According to the CDC analysis, this peak onset of both illnesses coincides with the summer recreational water season and may reflect the risks associated with use of communal swimming venues, such as lakes, rivers, swimming pools and water parks.

To read the CDC’s complete surveillance results for giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis, please go to:
CDC Giardiasis Surveillance — U.S. 1998-2002
CDC Cryptosporidiosis Surveillance — U.S. 1999-2002
New Year Brings New Cases of Shipboard Norovirus Outbreaks

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that six cruise ships calling at North American ports since Jan. 1st have reported gastrointestinal outbreaks, continuing the cruise ship industry’s public health difficulties over the past year. The CDC confirmed that three of the ships — Holland America Line’s Veendam and Ryndam and Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Sea — reported outbreaks affecting between 4.4 percent and 21 percent of passengers. Last year, twenty-eight ships had a total of thirty-six gastrointestinal illness-causing outbreaks.

The CDC defines outbreaks as illness rates of 3 percent or higher among passengers or crew.

The most common cause of the shipboard gastrointestinal outbreaks, the Norwalk virus or norovirus, thrives in the cruise ship environment because of their closed water supply environments. The norovirus is often spread through contact with an object that has been touched by an infected person, but can also be transmitted through contaminated food or water. An estimated 23 million Americans are affected annually by norovirus. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps and generally last one to two days.

According to the CDC, travelers who become sick from norovirus -related illness should drink plenty of fluids to defend against dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea.

To read more about traveling tips from the CDC, please go to:
CDC Vessel Sanitation Program “Cruising Tips”

Post-Flood Health Concerns in Guyana

Floods caused by a reported twenty-seven inches of rain that fell during mid-January have left thousands of people in densely populated areas of Guyana without shelter, food or drinkable water. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reports that public health programs in the area have also been disrupted and a critical need exists for medical assistance to combat the population against dengue fever, malaria, and other vector-borne diseases. More than 70,000 people in the capital of Georgetown and at least 100,000 more in the coastal regions of the country have been affected.

According to PAHO, both of the water treatment plants on Guyana’s east coast were knocked out of service due to flooding. While water is still being disinfected through chlorination processes, levels of chlorine employed to disinfect the water has dropped as the stock of chlorine gas is nears depletion.

As a result, emergency relief funds are in urgent demand to provide adequate drinking water and sanitation, set up emergency centers, provide logistic support and coordination and conduct education and information activities on disease prevention and stress management.

In addition to PAHO, agencies including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and disaster relief specialists from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance are currently providing relief support.

For the latest updates on the Guyana flood crisis, please go to: PAHO Guyana Flood Situation Report on Water Supply 1/29/05.

To donate to the Guyana recovery effort, please go to

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