Ten outbreaks of waterborne acute gastroenteritis (AGE) have been investigated in France since 1998. These outbreaks have affected populations of over 1,000 people, with generally high attack rates. The causal agents have been identified in six of these events. Aetiologies involved mainly noroviruses and Cryptosporidium sp. The point of entry of the contamination was located in the distribution network in five outbreaks (waste water backflows in four cases and one case of contamination induced by maintenance work) and at the water collection facilities in five other cases. Once the outbreak was detected, epidemiological and environmental investigations and crisis management followed well-established procedures. Further progress in public health surveillance will depend on more complete and rapid detection and reporting. Automated analysis of health insurance data on the reimbursement of drugs for AGE should help make detection more complete. Improved reactivity depends primarily on the operator immediately reporting incidents that indicate a possible massive contamination of the water network to health authorities – in particular complaints from the population, which are the only early-warning alerts in the case of waste water backflows.

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