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N Engl J Med. 1989 May 25;320(21):1372-6.

Large community outbreak of cryptosporidiosis due to contamination of a filtered public water supply.

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  • 1Centers for Disease Control, Division of Parasitic Diseases, Atlanta, GA 30333.


Between January 12 and February 7, 1987, an outbreak of gastroenteritis affected an estimated 13,000 people in a county of 64,900 residents in western Georgia. Cryptosporidium oocysts were identified in the stools of 58 of 147 patients with gastroenteritis (39 percent) tested during the outbreak. Studies for bacterial, viral, and other parasitic pathogens failed to implicate any other agent. In a random telephone survey, 299 of 489 household members exposed to the public water supply (61 percent) reported gastrointestinal illness, as compared with 64 of 322 (20 percent) who were not exposed (relative risk, 3.1; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.4 to 3.9). The prevalence of IgG to cryptosporidium was significantly higher among exposed respondents to the survey who had become ill than among nonresident controls. Cryptosporidium oocysts were identified in samples of treated public water with use of a monoclonal-antibody test. Although the sand-filtered and chlorinated water system met all regulatory-agency quality standards, sub-optimal flocculation and filtration probably allowed the parasite to pass into the drinking-water supply. Low-level cryptosporidium infection in cattle in the watershed and a sewage overflow were considered as possible contributors to the contamination of the surface-water supply. We conclude that current standards for the treatment of public water supplies may not prevent the contamination of drinking water by cryptosporidium, with consequent outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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