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Epidemiol Infect. 2003 Jun;130(3):469-79.

Outbreaks of infectious disease associated with private drinking water supplies in England and Wales 1970-2000.

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  • 1Environmental Surveillance Unit, CDSC, Public Health Laboratory Service, 61 Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5EQ.


In England and Wales over the last 30 years there have been 25 reported outbreaks of infection, associated with private water supplies (PWS). The majority (16 outbreaks) were reported after the introduction of enhanced surveillance. Although PWS only serve 0.5% of the population, 36% of drinking water outbreaks are associated with PWS. The main pathogen, campylobacter, was implicated in 13 (52%) outbreaks. Most reported outbreaks (88%) occurred in commercial or Category Two supplies, which potentially affect larger populations. The main factors implicated in these outbreaks are temporary or transient populations, treatment (lack or failure), the presence of animals and heavy rains. The public health problem associated with PWS could be prevented by the identification and understanding of risk factors, by the proper protection of water sources and adequate treatment and maintenance. This could be facilitated through the introduction of a risk assessment as part of a scheme for PWS.

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