Basic Water Safety 101
Clean water is vital to our very existence: Without it, we perish. It is for this reason that purifying all uncertain water sources becomes imperative.
The essential value that clean water holds on our life force should drive us to make sure that every drop we ingest enhances our health and vitality instead of creating sickness and disease.
The Power and Importance of Purifying Water
Just as water can enhance our health, it also has the power to destroy it. Unpurified water sources can be deadly.
During any outdoor activity where unknown water sources will be relied upon, it is the responsibility of everyone to purify all water sources before drinking, eating, or personal hygiene use. What may be lurking within that deceivingly cold crystal clear water could be deadly or at least hazardous enough to make you very sick.
In other words, it is in the best interest of your health and even mortality to treat all unknown water sources as if they are unsafe. Water born disease is a reality that can happen to anyone that takes short cuts when it comes to safety. Water contamination is real and comes in many forms.
Seemingly clean water can be filled with harmful pathogens, microorganisms, and other harmful contaminants.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to natural water sources.
Water can become contaminated from the improper disposal of human waste that makes its way into the water as a result. The contaminating organisms can be the byproduct of human feces or animals, both sources are dangerous enough to make you very sick or even kill you.
Lakes, streams, and rivers, really any natural water source, are communal bathrooms for birds, mammals, and sometimes humans and although what they release into these water sources is natural, the released waste spells trouble because it is still a contaminant. Keep in mind that human fecal matter can result in deadly illnesses like Cholera.
Even doing something as seemingly innocent as washing dishes in a natural spring can wreak havoc on the cleanliness and drinkability of the water supply. Hands down, it behooves all of us to purify all water sources that we plan on ingesting.
The Perils of Giardia
Giardia is a microscopic parasite found in soil, food, or water sources that have been contaminated by infected animal and human fecal matter. It causes diarrhea or giardiasis.
This microscopic parasite is protected by a hard shell and as a result, can live outside of a host body for long periods of time, its hard shell also makes it resistant to chlorine disinfection. It can be found in drinking water and in pools, which are the most common modes of transmission.
Common symptoms include diarrhea, gas, nausea, upset stomach, greasy stools that float, and dehydration. Less obvious symptoms can be hives, itchy skin, swelling of the eyes and joints.
This infection can be diagnosed with stool samples and treated with a variety of different antibiotics. Keep in mind that some people infected with Giardia have no symptoms.
When left untreated, this infection can lead to the inability of the body to absorb fat, vitamins A and B12, and lactose, and weight loss; It can even cause malnutrition and delayed growth and development in children.
Diarrhea can be caused by a variety of different bacteria, viruses, and parasites found in unclean water sources.
Most waterborne illnesses cause diarrhea and are a result of pathogens that are spread through contaminated water; A whopping eighty-eight percent of all cases of diarrhea can be linked to ingesting unsanitary water.
Outdoor recreational activities that require the use of natural water sources are common modes of transmission for diarrheal infections due to ingesting and or using unpurified water for oral hygiene purposes.
Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium are 2 common types of bacteria found in unclean water.
The symptoms of diarrhea are frequent large watery stools. Tests to determine the causes often include blood and stool samples. The treatment is most often antibiotics.
Cholera is an illness caused by the bacteria Vibrio Cholerae. This bacteria gives off 2 deadly toxins; one causes the bacteria to multiply in the intestines and the other causes chronic diarrhea.
Many people who become infected develop few symptoms, if any at all, and recover quickly, however, some experience severe reactions. When treated promptly, the infection is easily eradicated, but when left untreated death occurs in 50-70 percent of those affected.
It is largely transmitted by traces of human fecal matter found in food or water sources. The bacteria can also be transmitted by cooking utensils washed with contaminated water and raw shellfish, fruits and vegetables.
The illness is usually diagnosed through stool samples and treatment generally involves antibiotics and fluid-electrolyte replacement. Antibiotic treatment usually shortens the time span of the illness.
There is a Cholera vaccine available but it only offers protection for up to 3-6 months at a time. There is no long-term protection.
Typhoid fever is a waterborne illness contracted by eating or drinking water that has been contaminated by the urine or feces of infected people.
The infection is characterized by the bacteria Salmonella typhimurium. The bacteria makes its home in the intestines or bloodstream of humans and is an infection spread by humans, not animals.
It can exist inside the cells of the body, safe from the defenses of the immune system. It may take several weeks to actually manifest symptoms, anywhere from 6-30 days.
Once symptoms do surface, the determining tests include samples of blood, stool, urine, and bone marrow.
Symptoms of Typhoid fever are a fever of at least 104 degrees and a rose-colored skin rash on the neck and stomach area. These symptoms can be followed by constipation or diarrhea, stomach pain, weakness, headaches, and vomiting.
Antibiotics are used to treat this illness and even after symptoms resolve traces of the bacteria may still be present in the body, making transmission to others a possibility, just as it is with people that are so called silent carriers.
There is a vaccine available that can be taken both orally, in the form of a succession of pills, and a one-time shot. However, this vaccine are not 100 percent effective.
Left untreated, Typhoid fever can be deadly or require more serious measures, like surgery, as treatment.
Dysentery is caused by the Shigella and Campylobacter bacteria or an amoeba. It is spread through contaminated food or water. This bacteria penetrates the lining of the intestines causing ulcers and swelling which creates bloody diarrhea.
There are 2 different types of Dysentery that are prevalent: amoebic dysentery and bacillary dysentery.
The first type is caused by a parasite living in the large bowel, the second is caused by an invasive bacteria. A lack of good hygiene and sanitation are the culprits for this illness that is spread through water and food contaminated by human waste. Bacterial modes of transmission are the most common.
Symptoms of Dysentery include severe frequent bloody pus-filled stool, fever, and chills, stomach pain and cramping, weight loss, headache, vomiting, tiredness, and dehydration. This illness is diagnosed with stool samples and commonly treated with antiparasitic medications.
Metronidazole and Iodoquinol are 2 medications commonly used. In addition, fluid-electrolyte replacement is also used as a supporting treatment. If left untreated, death can occur within a 24-hour time frame.
Wrapping It All Up
Improper handling of water can be deadly, or at the very least cause severe sickness. Going that necessary extra mile to ensure that all relied upon water sources are uncontaminated and pure enough for human consumption, should be a requirement.
Treat all water as if it’s contaminated before ingesting it. Waterborne illnesses are serious and dangerous.
The next time you’re tempted to drink from that cold clear sparkling stream, river, or lake, think twice. It could save your life.