213287 Changing understanding of water and infectious diseases

Monday, November 9, 2009: 2:50 PM

Tom Hennessy, MD, MPH , Arctic Investigations Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Anchorage, AK
It has long been recognized that access to potable water and modern wastewater disposal can reduce morbidity and mortality from gastrointestinal illnesses; however, recent data have established the important role of adequate water supplies for preventing respiratory diseases. Having an adequate supply of safe water is important for the prevention of both “water-borne” diseases, where the pathogen can be ingested from contaminated water, and “water-washed” disease, where hygienic practices such as handwashing and bathing play a role. Although improvements in water and wastewater services to rural Alaska villages have been ongoing since 1960, approximately 1/3 of villages still lack in-home water service. Until recently, the health benefits of in-home sanitation services in Alaska have been poorly understood. The presenter will review the current data on the role of water in infectious diseases and discuss recent studies in rural Alaska where the relationship between in-home water and wastewater service and the risks of infectious diseases have been described. These data shed light on the higher rates of respiratory infections of infancy, Staphylococcal skin infections and invasive bacterial infections and the added health care costs experienced by persons living in settings where access to in-home sanitation services is limited. These data point to water as a key component in preventing a much wider range of health problems than was previously appreciated and lend support to efforts aimed at increasing access to adequate amounts of potable water for consumption and hygiene in communities with infectious disease health disparities.

Learning Objectives:
Describe the new data supporting the role of water in infectious diseases. Identify specific infectious disease health outcomes associated with lack of access to adequate supplies of safe water in rural Alaska. Describe the remaining health challenges faced by rural Alaska communities and the role water may play in the solution to those problems.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an infectious disease epidemiologist with 15 years experience in the study of prevention and control of food borne, waterborne and other communicable diseases. As the Director of CDC's infectious disease field station in Anchorage, Alaska I have expertise in the infectious disease problems of Arctic and subarctic residents particularly as those relate to water and sanitation issues.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.