Waterborne Diseases Come with a Large Pricetag

July 15, 2010 Anonymous

Under a moderately-high magnification of 6500X, this colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted a scattered grouping of Gram-negative Legionella pneumophila bacteria. The Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, or parts of the air-conditioning systems of large buildings.People in developed countries don’t tend to spend much time worrying about waterborne diseases. Modern water treatment systems have drastically improved the safety of public water supplies, and if people have even heard of parasitic diseases like Cryptosporidiosis (commonly called “crypto”) or Giardiasis, they tend to think of them merely as an unpleasant bout of diarrhea–uncomfortable and inconvenient, but nothing serious.

Parasitic diseases like Crypto and Giardiasis, however, as well as bacterial illnesses like Legionnaires’ disease, can cause severe infections that lead to hospitalization and death, even in developed nations. Recently, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the annual cost of hospitalizations for cases of Legionnaires’, Crypto and Giardiasis in the United States. Using insurance claim data from 2004-2007, the researchers determined that cases of hospitalization from the three diseases may cost more than half a billion dollars annually–including both costs paid by insurance companies and costs paid out-of-pocket by patients.

Among the three, Legionnaires’ was found to have the highest annual financial toll due to hospitalization, with the total cost estimated to be between $101 and $321 million. A single inpatient hospitalization for a case of Legionnaries’ averaged more than $34,000.

The researchers cited these numbers as a reminder that even diseases we rarely worry about can have a heavy toll.

This research was presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

More information:

CDC Patient Facts: Legionnaires’ Disease

CDC Disease Information: Cryptosporidiosis

CDC Disease Information: Giardiasis

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