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Fast Facts

Information on Water-related Emergencies and Outbreaks

Germs & Outbreaks

  • The largest waterborne disease outbreak in United States history occurred in 1993 in Milwaukee, WI when over 400,000 people became ill with diarrhea when the parasite Cryptosporidium was found in the city’s drinking water supply 3.
  • Legionnaire’s Disease got its name in 1976 from American Legion members who attended a convention in Philadelphia and were the first to suffer from an outbreak of this disease 4.

Natural Disasters

  • During the historic 2005 Hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ran out of names for major tropical storms, using letters of the Greek alphabet to name storms for the first time since storms began acquiring names in 1953 5.

Preparation & Prevention

  • A preparedness supply kit should include one gallon of drinking water per day per person 2.
  • Treating water with chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, or liquid bleach will not kill all parasites that can contaminate water; boiling or appropriate filtration is required 6.
  1. CDC. Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water — United States, 2007–2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(No. SS 12);38-68.
  2. CDC. Emergency Preparedness and You.
  3. CDC. Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks – United States, 1993-1994. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 1996:45(No. SS-1);1-33.
  4. CDC. Patient Facts: Learn More about Legionnaires’ disease.
  5. National Weather Service. 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
  6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water (June 2015) [PDF – 2 pages].
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