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Lancet. 1991 May 18;337(8751):1200-4.

Waterborne outbreak of Norwalk virus gastroenteritis at a southwest US resort: role of geological formations in contamination of well water.

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  • 1Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia 30333.


From April 17 to May 1, 1989, gastroenteritis developed in about 900 people during a visit to a new resort in Arizona, USA. Of 240 guests surveyed, 110 had a gastrointestinal illness that was significantly associated with the drinking of tap water from the resort's well (relative risk = 16.1, 95% confidence interval 14.5 to 17.8) and this risk increased significantly with the number of glasses of water consumed (p less than 0.005). Three of seven paired sera tested for antibodies to the Norwalk agent had a four-fold or greater rise in titre. Water contaminated with faecal coliforms was traced back to the deep water well, which remained contaminated even after prolonged pumping. Effluent from the resort's sewage treatment facility seeped through fractures in the subsurface rock (with little filtration) directly into the resort's deep well. Although the latest technology was used to design the resort's water and sewage treatment plants, the region's unique geological conditions posed unexpected problems that may trouble developers faced with similar subsurface geological formations and arid climatic conditions in many parts of the world. In these areas, novel solutions are needed to provide adequate facilities for the treatment of sewage and supply of pure drinking water.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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