Water-related diseases: glossary

Four large groups of diseases are linked to availability and quality of water, as well as the efficient management of water resources: diseases related to acute or chronic lack of clean water, diseases linked to water contamination, diseases linked to water contaminated by toxic agents and vector-borne diseases.

Cholera

THE DISEASE

The “dirty hands disease” is caused by the Vibro cholerae bacteria. It is transmitted by the consumption of food or water that has been contaminated  by faeces of infected individuals.

GEOGRAPHY

Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Oceania

NUMBER of cases

1.4 to 4.3 million cases reported.
148,000 deaths every year.

TReATMENT

Treatment of cholera consists of replacing lost liquids and electrolytes. The use of oral rehydration salts (ORS) is the quickest and most efficient way of doing this. Propagation of the disease can be avoided by prevention (supplying sufficient quantities of clean drinking water, good personnal and food hygiene, hygienic excreta evacuation).

> All news about cholera.

Dengue

THE DISEASE

Transmitted by infected female “tiger” mosquitoes (the Aedes genus), this serious, flu-like, infectious disease – rarely fatal – affects new-borns, young children and adults.

GEOGRAPHY

Africa, The Americas, East Mediterranean Orientale, South Asia, West Pacific.

NUMBER OF CASES

390 million reported cases every year.
96 million of which present clinical manifestations.

TREATMENT

There is no vaccination for Dengue fever. The most effective method of prevention is personal protection against mosquito bites: mosquito nets, long-sleeved clothing and insect repellent.

Diarrhoea

THE DISEASE

Diarrhoea is a symptom of an infection caused by many bacteriological, viral or parasitic organisms most of which propagate in contaminated water. It is more frequent when there is no available clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning and basic hygienic rules are not respected.

GEOGRAPHY

Worldwide.

NUMBER OF CASES

1.7 billion people affected every year.
More than 842,000 deaths.

TREATMENT

To fight this plague, access to drinking water, improved sanitation, adapted food and personal hygiene are necessary, as well as health education on how the disease spreads.

Hepatitis

THE DISEASE

Two of the viruses causing hepatitis (hepatitis A and E) can be transmitted by water and food. Among the infectious cases, we can mention insufficient water supply as well as poor sanitation and poor quality hygiene.

GEOGRAPHY

Worldwide. Strong presence of hepatitis A in Africa / Central America / South America / Asia.

NUMBER OF CASES

Hepatitis E: 20 million cases per year. 44,000 deaths in 2015.

TREATMENT

There is no antiviral drug. Prevention can occur through education on good quality sanitation and personal hygiene, notably hand washing, a sufficient clean water supply and adequate elimination of waste.

Malaria

THE DISEASE

Malaria is the most widespread infectious parasitic disease in the world. It is caused by a Plasmodium parasite transmitted at night by a female Anopheles mosquito. Without quick, efficient treatment, malaria can cause death.

GEOGRAPHY

Subsaharian Africa, South-East Asia, South America.

NUMBER OF CASES

Between 300 and 500 million cases and more than 1 million deaths each year.

TRAITEMENT

There is no vaccine to fight malaria. Since preventive antimalarial medications do not guarantee an absolute protection against the infection, it is important to protect oneself from mosquito-bites: mosquito nets, mosquito repellent, malaria prevention during pregnancy, early detection and control of malaria epidemics.

Malnutrition

THE DISEASE

More than one in three individuals of all age groups suffer from undernutrition although it particularly affects the poorest populations and those who have unsufficient access to clean water and inadequate sanitation and a lack of health education.

GeOGRAPHY

Worldwide.
Including 20% of the population of developing countries.

NUMBER OF CASES

795 million people are under-nourished.

TREATMENT

Interventions contributing to the prevention of malnutrition include: improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene, teaching better hygienic practices, offering better access to food in sufficient quality and quantity and giving access to basic health services.

Onchocerciasis

THE DISEASE

The second main cause of blindness of infectious origin in the world, ‘river blindness’ is a parasitic disease transmitted by the blackfly of the genus Similium which breeds in water.

GEOGRAPHY

Africa / South America / Central America / Arabic Peninsula

NUMBER OF CASES

18 million people throughout the world are affected

TREATMENT

There are two principal means of controlling onchocerciasis: the spray of insecticides in blackfly larvae breeding sites and treatment of patients with medicine (ivermectine) which kills the young worms.

Scabies

THE DISEASE

A contagious cutaneous infection caused by a microscopic mite (Sarcoptes scabiei), scabies spreads rapidly in crowded conditions. Its most frequent symptom is a papular eruption on hands, between the fingers.

GEOGRAPHY

Worldwide.

NUMBER OF CASES

Some 300 million cases reported every year

TREATMENT

Personal hygiene is an important prevention measure, as well as access to an adequate water supply to fight the disease. Treatment occurs with acaricidal ointment after a warm bath with careful soaping. Infested clothes should be sterilised or washed in hot soapy water.

Schistosomiasis

THE DISEASE

Schistosomiasis or bilharzia is water-borne disease considered the second most important parasite infection after malaria. Transmission occurs when people suffering from schistosomiasis contaminate freshwater sources with excreta.

GEOGRAPHY

Africa, Central America, Caribbean, Brazil, Eastern Asia, Iran, Saudi Arabia.

NUMBER OF CASES

Some 300 million cases reported every year

TREATMENT

Personal hygiene is an important prevention measure, as well as access to an adequate water supply to fight the disease. Treatment occurs with acaricidal ointment after a warm bath with careful soaping. Infested clothes should be sterilised or washed in hot soapy water.

Trachoma

THE DISEASE

Caused by an organism called Chlamydia trachomatis, this infectious eye disease can provoke blindness after repeated infections. It is transmitted by hand contact, clothes or flies who rest on an infected child’s eyes.

GEOGRAPHY

Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Indian Sub-Continent, South Asia, China, Latin America, Australia, Pacific isles

NuMBER OF CASES

Six million people in the world are blind due to trachoma.
More than 150 million people are in need of treatment

TREATMENT

It has been proven that good personal hygiene, as well as environmental health (improving sanitation, access to water, reduction of flies’ breeding sites, and facial hygiene with clean water) are efficient to fight trachoma.

Typhoid and paratyphoid fevers

THE DISEASE

Typhoid and paratyphoid fevers are infections caused by Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi bacteria. People are affected when ingesting food or drink that have been manipulated by infected persons or after having consumed drinking water that was contaminated by faeces or wastewater containing bacteria.

GEOGRAPHY

Most of the least industrialised countries.

NUMBER OF CASES

Around 17 million cases worldwide

TREATMENT

Personal hygiene, hand washing, providing safe water, adequate sanitation… A vaccine is available, though it is not systematically recommended and it does not provide total protection against the infection.