It’s safe to say that none of us like getting sick. But the truth is we get sick; it’s inevitable.

A major contributing cause of getting sick is exposure to waterborne illnesses. It is more likely for us to get sick from the water than we think.

But just how common are waterborne illnesses in the United States?

We researched the most common waterborne illnesses in the USA. Keep reading to find out about some of the most dangerous waterborne illnesses in the country.

What Is a Waterborne Illness?

A waterborne illness is an illness caused by bacteria, viruses, or other harmful microorganisms living in the water. Ingestion of contaminated water can lead to these illnesses, which can cause diarrheal disease, respiratory disease, and other serious ailments.

The contamination of water can occur through sewage and runoff or naturally occurring organisms. When water is not properly treated, these bacteria and viruses can enter drinking water, which can lead to waterborne illnesses. These illnesses can be prevented through regular water testing and treatments if necessary.

Common Types of Waterborne Illnesses

Common types of waterborne illnesses include typhoid fever, Salmonella, Vibrio, Cholera, E. coli, cryptosporidiosis, and giardiasis. All of these illnesses can be spread through contaminated water, either directly or indirectly. Contamination can come from a variety of sources, such as animal and human waste, water runoff from farms, and incorrect practices in the treatment of public water supplies.

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is one of the most common types of waterborne illnesses. It is caused by Salmonella typhi, a type of bacteria usually found in contaminated food and water. Symptoms of typhoid fever include high fever, fatigue, headache, muscular pain, appetite loss, and abdominal discomfort.

The illness can be spread easily, so it is important to practice good hygiene, including washing your hands frequently and avoiding contact with unclean water and food.

In some cases, typhoid fever can lead to severe complications such as intestinal bleeding, shock, and multi-organ failure. Treatment is available for typhoid fever, but in some cases, it can be fatal, so it is important to take all the necessary precautions to prevent it from happening.


Vibrio is a bacterial pathogen commonly found in warm, brackish water. It can cause a variety of illnesses, such as Vibrio vulnificus, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, and Vibrio cholerae.

Vibrio vulnificus can lead to a skin infection, septicemia, and even death. Vibrio parahaemolyticus causes gastrointestinal illnesses such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Vibrio cholerae causes more serious cholera.

All of these illnesses can be potentially deadly, which is why it is important to take precautions when consuming or handling water that may be contaminated.


One of the most common types of waterborne illnesses is Cholera, which is caused by the vibrio cholerae bacteria. Symptoms of cholera include:

  • watery diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • vomiting
  • dehydration
  • fever

If left untreated, Cholera can quickly cause severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances which can lead to death.

E. Coli

Symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, complications can include kidney failure and anemia. People who are at the highest risk of E. coli infection are those who swim in and come into contact with contaminated water.

To prevent E. coli infection, individuals should always make sure they are swimming in clean and properly treated bodies of water. Avoid drinking or wading in any water that has not been tested for contamination.


Cryptosporidiosis is caused by a microscopic protozoan parasite, Cryptosporidium, which commonly infects humans and a variety of other animals. This infection usually results in gastrointestinal illness with watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and fatigue.

This illness is generally spread through the ingestion of contaminated food or water, as well as through contact with infected animals. It can also be spread through contact with infected individuals through swimming pool water and recreational water shared with other people.

The infection is hard to treat and is highly contagious, so it is important to take steps to protect yourself and those around you. This includes washing hands thoroughly and avoiding contact with water and bodily fluids of an infected person.


Giardiasis is a common waterborne illness caused by the Giardia parasite. It is one of the most widely distributed illnesses in humans.

Symptoms of Giardiasis include:

  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • fatigue
  • weight loss

If left untreated, the parasite can cause more serious health problems. Treatment typically requires a combination of prescription drugs, nutritional counseling, and proper hygiene practices. While more commonly found in underdeveloped countries, Giardiasis can be found in developed areas as well.


Salmonella is a type of foodborne bacterial infection. It can be found in contaminated food, water, or soil and can spread from the feces of infected animals. It can also spread from person to person by consuming food that’s been prepared in an unsanitary way.

The symptoms of Salmonella can range from mild to severe and can last for up to seven days, depending on the severity of the infection. The most common symptoms are fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea which can be bloody and/or contain mucus. If not treated or if a person’s immune system is compromised, Salmonella can be fatal.

Drinking clean, uncontaminated water, washing and preparing food correctly, and proper sanitation are all important in preventing and avoiding waterborne illnesses, such as Salmonella.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. It can be spread by eating or drinking dirty water or food, close contact with someone who is infected, or direct contact with infected feces.

Common symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea, fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, and loss of appetite. The virus typically passes within a few weeks, but it can linger in your liver and cause more serious issues if left untreated. It can also be prevented by receiving a vaccination.

Avoid These Common Waterborne Illnesses

Waterborne illnesses are preventable and treatable. We must take preventive action by properly disposing of sewage and garbage, sterilizing water, and drinking safe water. Treatment should begin as soon as symptoms appear and involve rehydration with fluids and electrolytes. Take the necessary steps now to prevent and treat waterborne illnesses.

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