Epidemic waterborne risks are discussed in this paper. Although the true incidence of waterborne illness is not reflected in the currently reported outbreak statistics, outbreak surveillance has provided information about the important waterborne pathogens, relative degrees of risk associated with water sources and treatment processes, and adequacy of regulations. Pathogens and water system deficiencies that are identified in outbreaks may also be important causes of endemic waterborne illness. In recent years, investigators have identified a large number of pathogens responsible for outbreaks, and research has focused on their sources, resistance to water disinfection, and removal from drinking water. Outbreaks in surface water systems have decreased in the recent decade, most likely due to recent regulations and improved treatment efficacy. Of increased importance, however, are outbreaks caused by the microbial contamination of water distribution systems. In order to better estimate waterborne risks in the United States, additional information is needed about the contribution of distribution system contaminants to endemic waterborne risks and undetected waterborne outbreaks, especially those associated with distribution system contaminants.

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