Food and Waterborne Diseases

Food and Waterborne Diseases

Humans can only survive without food for about 8-21 days while without water for about three days only. Undoubtedly, food and water are the necessities of human life. But what if the need itself brings disease to us? This article will explain food and water-related conditions as well as possible treatments.


Food and Infected Water

Several diseases can occur due to food and water infected by harmful or dirty organisms.

According to a 2019 World Health Organization (WHO) report (1):

  • 785 million people worldwide lack access to a clean drinking water supply.
  • At least 2 billion people worldwide use drinking water that contains faeces/contaminants.
  • This contaminated water can cause food and waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, and typhoid fever.
  • This contaminated drinking water has resulted in the deaths of approximately 485,000 people each year due to diarrhoea.

Singapore has a record of 100% access to clean water supply for all homes. So you don't need to be worry. For this article, we will examine the two most common food and waterborne diseases worldwide, namely Cholera and Debris Typhoid.



Cholera is food and waterborne disease caused by a bacterium called Vibrio Cholerae. In Singapore, according to, only 11 cases between 2008-2009 were reported.


Globally, 221,226 cases, including 4946 deaths, were reported from 45 countries in 2009. The leading cause was due to poor water and food resource facilities (3).

The disease can be transmitted through food or water contaminated with feces or vomiting of infected people.

Among the symptoms of this disease are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Stomachache

Severe diarrhoea can cause dehydration and if not treated immediately, can lead to acidosis, circulatory disorders and kidney failure, which in turn leads to death.

Treatment is needed to prevent dehydration and kill the bacteria. It is best to seek treatment at the hospital immediately if you have any of the above symptoms. Usually, patients will be given an oral rehydration solution (ORS).


Typhoid Fever

The disease is also a food and waterborne disease. Typhoid fever is caused by a bacterium called Salmonella Typhi or Salmonella Paratyphi.


Usually, this disease occurs due to food handlers who unknowingly carriers have contaminated food and drink during the preparation process. In Malaysia, this fever incident occurred in Kelantan in 1978-1990 with around 10.2-17.9 cases per 100,000 population.

This disease can cause symptoms such as (1):

  • Persistent and prolonged fever, temperature above 40C
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomachache
  • Headache
  • Body aches/weakness/fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Cough without phlegm
  • Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
  • Rash (red spots on upper body)
  • Swelling of the spleen and liver

Among the steps to prevent typhoid fever are to wash your hands, wash the side dishes and vegetables, use clean water, wash dishes immediately and choose clean food stalls and handlers.




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