Update: New Zealand’s Largest Drinking Water Outbreak
Fred M. Reiff, P.E.

Drinking Water OutbreakIn August 2016, more than one-third of the 14,000 residents of the community of Havelock North in New Zealand were sickened with gastrointestinal illness after drinking untreated groundwater contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria. It was New Zealand’s largest drinking water outbreak in recorded history. Although accounts vary, the outbreak has been linked to the deaths of up to three persons. Other recent reports have noted that many people, especially the elderly, continue to suffer physically and have not fully recovered from the outbreak.1 The regional cost of the outbreak now exceeds $2.7 million in New Zealand dollars.2 Once the problem was identified and shortly after chlorination was implemented, there were no further cases of Campylobacter enteritis due to water system contamination.

Campylobacter and the Government Inquiry

Initial reports suggested that livestock were the most likely source of the Havelock North Campylobacter—a common food- and waterborne … READ MORE >>

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Antimicrobial Resistance: “Nothing in Our Medicine Cabinet…”
Fred Reiff, PE and Barbara M. Soule, RN, MPA, CIC, FSHEA

Antimicrobial ResistanceA “superbug” infection contracted in a hospital in India killed a Nevada woman in September 2016 as doctors stood by, powerless to intervene with an effective antibiotic drug. The woman in her 70’s had fractured her leg in India, leading to multiple hospitalizations in that country. She returned to the US in early August 2016 and was admitted to an acute care hospital later that month.

The pathogen responsible for the woman’s death, Klebsiella pneumoniae, was found to be resistant to 26 antibiotics. A co-author of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on the incident noted in a Reno-Gazette-Journal article that the CDC “basically reported that there was nothing in our medicine cabinet to treat this lady.”

A Global Problem

Antibiotic resistant germs are a serious global public health threat. In the US, there are over two million infections and 23,000 deaths caused by antibiotic … READ MORE >>

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Your Norovirus Season Survival Guide
Chris Wiant, MPH, PhD

Norovirus, the dreaded “stomach flu” or “winter vomiting disease,” is spreading misery far and wide this winter. The Wall Street Journal (January 24) reported on multiple school closures across the US and unhappy households in which family members are falling sick in succession like a line of dominoes.

 

Meet the Virus

Not a flu but a virus, norovirus has been called the “perfect pathogen1” because it is highly contagious and evolves more quickly than humans can develop significant immunity against it. Norovirus spreads through close personal contact with an infected individual; by ingesting contaminated food or water; or by contact with contaminated surfaces. It is the world’s most common cause of gastrointestinal illness, inflicting severe diarrhea or vomiting. Symptoms begin to appear from 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected with the virus and last a few days. Unfortunately, people remain contagious for several days after they feel better. As they resume normal activities, therefore, the lingering “perfect pathogen” may be transmitted easily to new, unsuspecting hosts.

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Indicators of Drinking Water Quality
Joan Rose, Ph.D.

Providing safe drinking water requires a multi-barrier approach that includes protecting source water from contamination, physically and/or chemically treating (including chlorine disinfection) the raw surface- and groundwater, and storing and delivering the treated water in a manner that prevents re-contamination. Every day, more than a billion glasses of tap water are consumed from over 150,000 public drinking water systems across the US, and it is often taken for granted that the water is safe and wholesome.1

 

Many types of pathogenic (disease-causing) germs can be found in contaminated drinking water, including bacteria, viruses and parasites like Cryptosporidium—the cause of the largest documented waterborne disease outbreak in recent US history.

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Smells like Chlorine?
Stephan A. Hubbs, PE

They say “the nose knows,” but I say the nose can be confused. Chlorine odors are a good example. Several different chlorine odors can arise from various chlorine-based substances and in different circumstances. They are not all simply due to “chlorine.” A prime example is the irritating smell commonly attributed to chlorine around some poorly managed swimming pools. That smell is from a couple of chemical compounds in the chloramine family. Some chloramines form when chlorine disinfectants react chemically with nitrogen-based substances from the bodies of swimmers, including urine. The poolside pronouncement of “too much chlorine in the pool” may be more aptly described as “too much peeing in the pool.” Ironically, the odor could signal that more chlorine is needed in the pool.

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