Common Types of Waterborne Diseases and How They Affect You

Medically Reviewed by Madeline Hubbard, RN, BSN

Photo Courtesy: simonkr/E+/Getty Images

In the United States, more than 7 million people every year are impacted by a waterborne illness. This means that, although the United States has relatively safe drinking water, germs are still often able to spread from person to person and cause disease through contaminated water.

Usually, waterborne illness occurs after you drink water that’s contaminated with a disease-causing germ. This type of illness tends to involve gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhea or vomiting. However, it’s also possible to contract an upper respiratory or skin infection after you’ve been exposed to waterborne germs but haven’t ingested them. Recreational activities like swimming and boating provide opportunities for germs to enter your body and lead to symptoms.

Waterborne illness symptoms can range from mild to severe, and some can even be life-threatening. Read on to find out more about particular pathogens, treatment options and ways to keep yourself safe from contaminated water sources.