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Epidemiol Infect. 1995 Apr;114(2):289-95.

Illness in a community associated with an episode of water contamination with sewage.

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Department of Public Health Medicine, Eastern Health Board, Dublin.


Following an episode of water contamination with sewage in a rural Irish town, a community-wide survey of gastrointestinal-associated illness and health service utilization was conducted. Random sampling of households yielded residents who were surveyed using a self-administered questionnaire. Of 560 respondents from 167 (84%) households, equal proportions lived in areas known to have been exposed and unexposed to the contaminated water, although 65% of subjects reported using contaminated water. Sixty-one percent of subjects met the case definition. The most common symptoms among cases were abdominal cramps (80%), diarrhoea (75%), appetite loss (69%), nausea (68%) and tiredness (66%). Mean duration of illness was 7.4 days. Only 22% of cases attended their general practitioner. Drinking unboiled water from the exposed area was strongly associated with being a case. A substantial degree of community illness associated with exposure to contaminated water was observed. The episode ranks as one of the largest reported water-borne outbreaks causing gastrointestinal illness in recent times.

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