A controlled survey of less typical long-term consequences after an extensive waterborne epidemic
BMC Infectious Diseases
Extensive backflow of treated wastewater caused household water contamination in a Finnish town in 2007. The drinking water of 9 500 residents became heavily polluted with faecal microbes, resulting in a large gastroenteritis epidemic. Cases of reactive arthritis, milder joint symptoms and prolonged gastrointestinal symptoms were observed after the outbreak. A follow-up survey was performed to study less familiar long-term health consequences within a year from the outbreak. Methods: The
... nated group comprised a sample of residents of the area with polluted water supply (N = 323) and the control group a sample of residents in a nearby municipality (N = 186). The presence of 20 general symptoms or complaints was inquired by a mail survey. Quarterly prevalence of each symptom or complaint was measured. Twelve of these proceeded to further analysis. Results: The response rate was 53% (323/615) in the contaminated group and 54% (186/343) in the control group. Rash, eye irritation, heartburn and weight loss were more prevalent in the contaminated group during the first year quarter. In the last year quarter, only eye irritation was significantly more common in the contaminated group. Conclusion: The excess prevalence of four complaints at the first year quarter can be explained by acute gastroenteritis or intensive water chlorination. The excess prevalence of eye irritation at the fourth year quarter cannot be explained by chlorination anymore but might be a sign of co-existing reactive joint disease. In general, long-term consequences of the outbreak can be considered minor in terms of the surveyed symptoms or complaints.