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Backyard Survival...

How To Properly Purify Water
by John E Phillips with Erica Miller

It All Starts With A Thirst

Waterborne illnesses often hit when a thirsty hunter or fisherman decides to take a cool drink from a mountain stream or a bubbling spring like the early pioneers in movies and TV shows who quenched their thirsts and continued their outdoor activities. Remember though that most of these crystal-clear mountain streams now have hidden dangers. Chemical pollution, protozoan and other parasites, bacteria and viruses have invaded that water. You won't see these little swimming dragons, but you definitely will feel them once they enter your system.

These days, you can't even assume that tap water has no contaminants. The municipal water systems in some areas may contain toxins and pathogens you haven't considered and thought you had protection against.

"Large numbers of people got sick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, because their public water-filtering system did not eliminate Cryptosporidium, a parasite," Barbara Reynolds, a spokesman for the CDC commented. "The illness even killed some of the people."

Here's a brief look at some of the boogers that will bite you...

More Waterborne Illnesses

The disease called cryptosporidiosis, also referred to as Crypto, affects more people than any other waterborne disease originating from rivers, lakes, water parks and swimming pools. Crypto infects a person when he or she swallows water or food contaminated with the parasite. The victim usually will experience watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, loss of appetite and a mild fever for about 2 weeks. The symptoms begin an average of 7 days after infection. However, crypto lingers in individuals with weakened immune systems and eventually can threaten the life of the host.

Another illness, a bacterial disease called leptospirosis, causes high fever, severe headaches, chills, muscle aches and vomiting in those persons exposed. It also can induce jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain and/or a rash. Untreated, the patient can develop kidney damage, inflammation around the brain, liver failure and respiratory diseases. The CDC identifies 100 to 200 cases of leptospirosis each year in the U.S.

"About half of the cases of leptospirosis occur in Hawaii," said Barbara Reynolds, a spokesperson of CDC. "But Illinois and Wisconsin did have several cases of outbreaks last year."

Outbreaks of leptospirosis occur after exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Exposure includes swallowing contaminated food or water and skin contact, especially with the eyes, nose or broken skin.

"Last year, quite a few triathletes became ill from leptospirosis," Reynolds added. "They didn't even drink the water. Instead, the athletes got sick after getting bacteria-infested water in their eyes, nose or ears."

Other bacteria in the water to worry about include hepatitis A, rotaviruses, polioviruses and echoviruses. Each of these causes diarrhea, intestinal cramps and discomfort about 48 to 72 hours after contact. Complications range from liver damage to paralysis and/or death.

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