ARS TECHNICA – Nineteen people fell ill with a diarrheal disease in Montana last year after drinking untreated water that many believed to be from a natural spring but which was, in fact, just creek drainage brimming with pathogenic bacteria.
One person was hospitalized in the outbreak, which ended only after authorities diverted the water source, local health officials reported Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly.
The outbreak follows a trend that sprang up in the US several years ago of drinking so-called “raw water.”
That is untreated, unfiltered water collected directly from freshwater sources that is often claimed—without evidence—to have health benefits.
“Proponents have argued that raw water avoids undesirable components of municipal water, which they identify as disinfectants, fluoride, imaginary “mind-control” drugs, traces of pharmaceuticals, and heavy metals, such as lead from pipes.”
They also suggest, without evidence, that raw water can contain unique probiotics and other “natural” minerals and compounds that can improve health.
Health officials have pointed out that untreated, unfiltered water is a clear health risk, given the likelihood of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites, as well as naturally occurring contaminants, such as radionuclides and mineral deposits.
In the case of the Montana outbreak, the contaminant was Campylobacter jejuni, a pathogenic bacterium that can spread from carrier animals, such as birds.
In humans, Campylobacter bacteria causes diarrhea, which is often bloody, as well as stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting … read more.