It’s still summer, so let’s take a quick look at the history of a disease that (these days, in the United States), is most commonly acquired from pools and lakes while swimming. It can cause miserable stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and can be extremely dangerous to those with compromised immune systems. And not too long ago, it caused some major problems for almost a quarter of the largest city in Wisconsin…
1993. Milwaukee, WI.
Anyone live on Milwaukee’s south side in March 1993? Personally, I was staying with my cousin over spring break, who lived in the area. As luck would have it, her house was served by the Howard Avenue Water Purification Plant…a plant that would soon make history. Of 880,000 people served by that treatment plant, 403,000 fell sick within a span of just over two weeks. Cramps, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea plagued so many people that some south side businesses were completely shut down due to lack of employees! Over $64 million (the most conservative estimate) was lost in productivity in a relatively small area in under a month.
Though “only” 104 people died in the end, people never expected something like this happening in the “modern” era. It was a massive blow to public confidence in their drinking water being safe, and in their municipal services in general.
However, thanks to this massive outbreak, water treatment plants and wastewater management all over the country are now far safer, have much better monitoring, sanitation, and filtration systems, and mini-outbreaks (that were not originally attributed to the same factors) have been nearly eliminated.
History Break! -
1894. Milwaukee, WI:
Photograph: Milwaukee Public Health Laboratory