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In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

November 30, 2007
Gates Foundation Funds Simple Test for E. Coli in Water

An international consortium led by the University of Bristol, and supported by a $13 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is developing the world's first low-cost, easy-to-use diagnostic tool (Aquatest) to give a clear, reliable indication of water quality .

The Aquatest project aims to give individuals and communities the information needed to identify unsafe water and empower them to work towards improvements in water supply. Aquatest involves a small, hand-held device, similar in concept to the home pregnancy-testing kit. The test results will be displayed as colored bands and may show that water is safe for adults to drink but not for children, the elderly or the sick. This will be the first off-the-shelf, low-cost and easy-to-use test that will detect the presence of E. coli, the internationally recognized indicator fecal contamination of water. While a good first step, this water quality test is not considered comprehensive, since there are a number of pathogenic organisms that can exist without the presence of E. coli. Additionally, there are naturally occurring inorganics (e.g., arsenic, fluoride, lead, mercury, etc.) that on a local basis can make water unsafe to drink.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates water-borne disease causes 1.8 million deaths annually, of which 1.5 million are children under five , and that over one billion people lack access to safe water . Demand for an inexpensive but reliable water-testing device that ordinary people can use is high in developing countries. It is anticipated that within ten years, such devices will be widely used in 80 percent of developing countries for water testing by industry professionals, communities and individuals, leading to improved water management and a potential decline in water-borne diseases.

For more information, please visit:
Gates Foundation Funds Simple Water Test

EPA Developing New Measures of Drinking Water Rules' Effectiveness

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of developing a new method for measuring the effectiveness of its drinking water regulations . Instead of tracking the percentage of water systems in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards, the EPA is seeking to measure the number of illnesses that the rules prevent . This shift from compliance-based to health-based outcomes represents a significant change for the Agency , moving away from an area where lots of data are available to one where less information is available.

The EPA has developed a framework, currently under review by the National Drinking Water Advisory Committee, which identifies several approaches for developing new measures . The approaches under consideration include ones based on the disinfection byproducts rule (DBP), the arsenic rule and the "long-term 2 enhanced surface water treatment rule (LT2), as well as measuring acute gastrointestinal illnesses. However, the EPA is reportedly leaning toward the DPB and LT2 models .

The EPA is aiming to complete the measures document by February 2008. Upon its completion, it will be submitted for a SAB peer review. The EPA wants a document detailing health outcome-based measures finalized by May in order to be included in EPAs 2008-2013 strategic plan.

For more information, please visit:
EPA Developing News Measures of Drinking Water Rules' Effectiveness

U.S. Military Delivering Drinking Water to Bangladesh Cyclone Victims

This week the U.S. Navy began airlifting urgently needed supplies of clean drinking water to thousands of survivors of Bangladesh's devastating cyclone . More than 3,400 people have died and hundreds of thousands have been left homeless after the powerful storm demolished entire villages on November 15, 2007.

One of the key problems facing authorities and survivors is the distribution of clean drinking water and the fear of water-borne diseases. In the country, much of the drinking water is supplied by surface water which has been contaminated either by the bodies of dead livestock or in coastal areas by high salinity caused by the tidal surge that accompanied the storm. There are relatively few tube wells which protects water from contamination by pumping it to the surface through a narrow tube.

Navy ships offshore will use the water purification plants they have on board to generate clean drinking water. Similarly, water purification machines have been flown in from Hawaii to generate water that U.S. troops will deliver by air and land to the survivors. To date, the United Nations has issued 7.3 million water purification tablets and 110,000 jerry cans for carrying safe water .

For more information, please visit:
U.S. Military Delivers Drinking Water to Bangladesh Cyclone Survivors

Norovirus Outbreak in Michigan Associated with Sick Food-Service Workers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported on a norovirus outbreak at a Michigan restaurant in Eaton County . The January 30, 2006 outbreak sickened at least 364 restaurant patrons . According to the report, the outbreak was the result of several food-service workers who had been ill and the vomiting of one line cook in the kitchen, which possibly increased environmental contamination and transmission of the virus.

Norovirus can be transmitted by person-to-person contact and spread through contaminated airborne droplets, food, water and environmental surfaces . In a norovirus outbreak, a vomiting incident is a major risk factor for norovirus illness and can double the attack rate. In the Michigan outbreak, vomiting by a line cook might have contributed to the illnesses transmission because of the open layout of the restaurant. In addition, other environmental contamination probably contributed to transmission. The investigation revealed deficiencies with employee hand-washing practices, cleaning and sanitizing of food and nonfood contact surfaces and maintenance of hand-sink stations for easy accessibility and proper use. The restaurant reportedly used a quaternary ammonium based-sanitizer, which is ineffective against norovirus, after the vomiting incident .

According to the CDC, the findings from this investigation underscored the need for ongoing education of food-service workers regarding prevention of norovirus contamination and transmission, as well as the use of effective disinfectants to eliminate the presence of norovirus in environmental contamination.

For more information, please visit:
Norovirus Outbreak in Michigan Associated with Sick Food-Service Workers

In The News-is a bi-weekly, online service from the Water Quality & Health Council.  The publication is updated every other Friday and can be viewed by logging onto www.waterandhealth.org .  To receive the publication via e-mail, please click here and enter your e-mail address to join our mailing list.

 

 

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