Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – June 20, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

June 20, 2003

First Documented Monkeypox Cases in the Western Hemisphere Reported in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois

As of June 13, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 81 cases of monkeypox are currently under investigation in Wisconsin (34), Indiana (26) Ohio (2) and Illinois (19). At least 14 people with suspected monkeypox have been hospitalized for their illness, but there have been no deaths related to the outbreak. These cases are the first time the disease, which is similar to smallpox but less infectious and deadly, has been detected in the Americas. Typically, patients with monkeypox experience fever, headaches, muscle aches, backaches, swollen lymph nodes and vesicular skin eruptions approximately 12 days after exposure. The illness generally lasts for two to four weeks. Preliminary investigations have shown that patients became ill after having close contact with infected prairie dogs, which may have become infected from Gambian giant rats that were imported as exotic pets. On June 11, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced an immediate embargo on the importation of all rodents from Africa due to the potential that they can spread monkeypox virus to other animals and humans. He also announced a ban in the United States on the distribution, sale and transport of prairie dogs and six specific African rodent species implicated in the current outbreak.

Please visit for the latest information about monkeypox.

CDC Reports that Many Swimming Pools Violate Health Codes

A rising number of swimming pool associated outbreaks of gastroenteritis prompted the CDC to investigate and find that thousands of public swimming pools in the United States may be operating in violation of public health codes. The CDC study, reported in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that approximately 25 percent of the outbreaks involved pathogens that are killed by adequate chlorination, indicating that the pools had “inadequate pool maintenance and disinfection.” Researchers collected data from more than 22,000 pools in Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Minnesota and Wyoming. About 54 percent of all pools tested had violations. Eight percent of inspections resulted in immediate closure of the pool pending corrections of serious violation items (such as lack of disinfectant); nearly 40 percent reported water-chemistry violations and another 40 percent had filtration and recirculation system violations. Of the pool types that could be ascertained by the data, the highest percentage of violations occurred in child wading pools, medical/therapy pools and hotel/motel pools. The CDC encourages increased pool staff training and advises swimmers to avoid swimming when they have diarrhea, not to swallow pool water and practice good hygiene when using a pool, such as taking frequent bathroom breaks and changing infant and toddler diapers often.

A complete copy of the report is available at

NRDC Releases Report on Drinking Water in U.S. Cities; Deteriorating Infrastructure Cited as Greatest Concern

“What’s On Tap,” a report released last week by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), concludes that deteriorating water works and source water pollution threaten the drinking water supply in several U.S. cities. The NRDC report reviewed tap water quality in 19 municipalities, focusing on three problem areas – water quality and compliance, source water protection, and right-to-know compliance. Of the cities graded by the NRDC, only Chicago rated excellent, five cities rated good, eight rated fair, and five rated poor. The report found apparent or confirmed violations of enforceable tap water rules in five cities over the two years reviewed (Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Fresno and Phoenix). The report also evaluated efforts to protect lakes, streams and groundwater serving as drinking water sources. Seattle received the highest rating in this area. To further protect drinking water, the NRDC report recommended that states and cities upgrade drinking water treatment facilities, invest in water conservation measures, and replace or update pipes and water distribution system components.

To read the report in its entirety, please visit

Eliminating Water-Related Death and Disease a Top Priority for the United Nations

Calling attention to the clean water scarcity afflicting developing countries around the world, the United Nations marked World Environment Day 2003 and its theme, “Water: Two Billion People Are Dying for It!” with calls for governments to double aid to poor countries. “Water related diseases kill a child every eight seconds, and are responsible for 80 percent of all illnesses and deaths in the developing world,” said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “One person in six lives without regular access to safe drinking water. Over twice that number – 2.4 billion people – lack access to adequate sanitation.” The UN notes that while water services have increased across the developing world in the past 20 years, population growth has cancelled out many of the gains. Causes for water scarcity include climate change, pollution and over consumption.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks are available at

Virginia Hotel Sanitized After Virus Outbreak

The Hyatt Dulles, a hotel outside of Washington, D.C., reopened on June 10 after being closed for four days while workers thoroughly cleaned the building to kill a virus that sickened 60 people. Virginia health officials determined that the sickness was caused by the norovirus, best known for recent outbreaks on cruise ships. The virus causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Health officials say that the virus is fairly common, and can be spread through contact with a contaminated person, food or surface. Hotel management, under the guidance of health officials, stopped the spread of the virus by scrubbing the hotel with a chlorine bleach solution. Reports of sick guests began on Monday, June 2. The hotel closed on Friday, June 6 after tests confirmed the sickness was caused by the norovirus. It has not been determined how the virus was carried into the hotel.

For more information, please visit

Poll Shows Support for Water Infrastructure Spending

A survey commissioned by the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) found that a majority of Americans (61%) believe that safe and clean water is a right, and not a privilege. The purpose of the survey was to evaluate public support of federal funding for clean and safe water infrastructure. The survey results also show that despite the expanding federal deficit, an overwhelming majority of Americans (84%) would support Federal legislation to create a long-term, sustainable and reliable source of funding for water infrastructure. Seventy percent said they believe water infrastructure funding is a federal responsibility, while 30% believe funding for clean and safe water is solely a local responsibility. In addition, most Americans (70%) would support a 1% tax increase if they knew that every penny would be dedicated to establishing and preserving water infrastructure in their area.

For more information, please visit ( PDF)

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