In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs
September 6, 2005
Safe Water Crisis Marks Gulf Coast Hurricane Aftermath
The devastating health and safety after effects of Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. Gulf Coast this week include a critical drinking water supply crisis for much of the region. Residents in a number of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida counties and parishes have been without access to clean public water since the hurricane hit the region early Monday, creating a potential health crisis that has public officials fearing potential disease outbreak over the ensuing days and weeks.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more than 400 drinking water systems in the three states are not working. EPA has sent 12 emergency response teams into the region both to aid search and rescue operation and to look for potential problems associated with spills caused by the storm and extensive flooding.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued a general boil water alert for all affect areas, advising that residents should “bring water to a rolling boil for one minute to kill any disease-causing microorganism.” For those who cannot boil water, FEMA advises adding “six drops of newly purchased, unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of water, stir well and let the water stand for 30 minutes before using it”.
Additionally, individual county health officials are cautioning residents on the dangers of waterborne disease and health-threatening conditions related to their drinking water. With the mixture of sewage, chemicals and fuel leaking into regional water sources, residents are being advised to drink bottled water or follow boil water practices.
The Water Quality and Health Council (WQ&HC) Web site, www.waterandhealth.org, provides several resources on potentially life-saving healthy water tips in the event of a flood, hurricane or other environmental emergency. Information includes both water storage tips and flood recovery procedures to minimize potential health dangers and disease spread.
For information on safe water storage information, go to WQ&HC Water Storage Tips. For flood clean-up information, please go to WQ&HC Flood Clean up Tips.
Those interested in making a monetary donation to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund can do so through the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council’s foundation at www.rfhee.org.
WHO Declares Tuberculosis Emergency in Africa
African health ministries have declared a tuberculosis emergency throughout the continent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Four days after a meeting in Mozambique to discuss the issue, health ministers from the 46 member states that comprise the WHO’s Regional Committee for Africa announced the declaration.
Since 1990, the number of new tuberculosis cases has quadrupled in 18 African countries, killing more than half a million people every year. In addition, concern exists about individuals who are already HIV-positive contracting tuberculosis due to their compromised immune systems.
According to the WHO, approximately 11 percent of AIDS deaths around the world are attributed to complications with tuberculosis.
The WHO anticipates that the emergency tuberculosis declaration will spur the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries, the United States and the Global Fund to increase its funding for fighting AIDS and other diseases.
To read more about WHO and African public health crises, please go to: http://www.who.int
New York Water Park Named as Source of Crypto Outbreak
A water recreation facility in Seneca Lake State Park, New York has been identified as the source of a recent wave of severe intestinal illness. The New York State Health Commission reports that 3,297 cases of Cryptosporidiosis in 24 counties have been traced to Sprayground in Geneva, NY between June and mid-August. New York State typically has fewer than 500 reported cases of Cryptosporidiosis each year.
Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites of the genus Cryptosporidium. Symptoms usually last for 1 to 2 weeks and cause serious discomfort. The illness is generally not deadly and will dissipate on its own, although people with compromised immune systems face a greater risk for more serious disease.
The first cases in the New York outbreak were reported in early July when those affected, mostly children, complained of nausea and diarrhea. Although it is one of the largest outbreaks involving Cryptosporidiosis in the state’s history, none of those infected were considered to be critically ill, according to New York health officials.
According to designers of the park’s sprinkling and water-spouting stations, Sprayground uses recycled, or “recirculated” water. Tests conducted by the Health Department have confirmed the presence of Cryptosporidium in two storage tanks that supply water to the popular water attraction.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia C. Novello has called for emergency regulations putting guidelines in place to govern design, sanitation and water quality at spray parks statewide. Regulations will also require signs alerting patrons of the importance of personal hygiene in and around water. Currently, the state regulates only pools and beach areas.
To read more from the CDC about Cryptosporidiosis, please go to:
CDC Parasitic Disease Information – Cryptosporidiosis
US Airport Quarantine Offices to Triple
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plans to triple the number of quarantine stations at airports across the country in an effort to stop deadly infectious diseases from entering the country. The new stations, from Alaska to Puerto Rico are near completion and will be managed, in part, by 50 new health officers trained by CDC.
In addition to the 10 new stations, the CDC plans construction of seven additional airport-based centers when funds become available.
Coupled with the existing eight stations, the US will soon have a network of 25 centers that act as the first-line of defense against a global disease pandemic. The network of centers will help coordinate programs in which thousands of air travelers may be subject to medical evaluation or provided with medical materials or advice before being allowed to enter the country. Passengers would be quarantined only if there is a strong reason to suspect that they have been exposed to a serious disease, according to a CDC spokesperson.
Washington Dulles International Airport will be opening a new center shortly. Additional centers are being opened this year in Anchorage, Boston, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, Minneapolis, Newark, San Diego and San Juan.
To read more about this new CDC program, please go to:
In The News-is a bi-weekly, online service from the Water Quality & Health Council. The publication is updated every other Friday and can be viewed by logging onto www.waterandhealth.org. To receive the publication via e-mail, please click here and enter your e-mail address to join our mailing list.