Water-borne Diseases and You

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Singapore is arguably one of the world’s leaders in providing safe and clean water to its populace – our tap water is well within World Health Organisation (WHO) standards and can be drunk right from the tap, according to the Public Utilities Board (PUB). Waterborne diseases that plagued the kampungs of old are a thing of the past, and are only ever mentioned in tandem with far-flung, developing regions such as Africa or South America.

Perhaps we’ve become complacent – it’s easy to see why, with clean water freely available nearly everywhere. Yet, as with most things, we are only able to truly appreciate a blessing if we understand how difficult life would be in its absence. Just what kind of diseases plague societies without our access to clean water?

Bacteria, Viruses, and Parasites

Water-borne illnesses are often the result of any combination of these three microorganisms. Those affected are often stricken with dangerously dehydrating diarrhoea, minor to extensive damage to their gastrointestinal tract, and other far reaching complications. Here, we take a closer look at the culprits of such conditions.

Traveller’s Diarrhoea

If you’ve ever been overseas on work or holiday, chances are that you’ve experienced this dreaded ailment. Traveller’s diarrhoea is most often caused by a few toxin-producing strains of the bacteria, Escherichia Coli or e. coli. The funny thing about it – once you get past the stomach cramps and persistent diarrhoea – is that you’ll eventually build up an immunity to the bacteria, just like the locals. However, since the process often takes months of prolonged exposure, the average tourist typically doesn’t gain immunity.

  • Cause: Enterotoxigenic Escherichia Coli measures 0.5 microns in size and is killed at temperatures of 65°C and above
  • Symptoms: Abrupt onset of diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, fever
  • Severity: Mild to moderate

Bacterial Dysentery

Dysentery is a serious disease with bacterial, viral, or parasitic origins. It has the potential to cause epidemics in regions without access to proper sanitation and medical care. While traveller’s diarrhoea is typically an annoyance, the bloody diarrhoea of dysentery is a sign of damage to the colon and intestines. In historical records, dysentery outbreaks were known to kill off up to 90% of a town’s population.

  • Cause: Shigella Dysenteriae is a strain of bacteria that measures 0.4 microns in size and is killed at temperatures of 65°C and above
  • Symptoms: Bloody diarrhoea with mucus, abdominal cramps, fever, sudden weight loss
  • Severity: Moderate to severe


Next to e. coli, salmonella is the next most infamous bacteria when we think of ‘bad germs’. Unsurprisingly, this bacteria type is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea globally. Besides being transmitted by contaminated poultry or dairy products, it is often spread through water that has been contaminated by domestic animals or pests. Given proper rehydration and rest, the condition itself is relatively mild, but can be highly persistent when improper hygiene practices result in continuous re-infection.

  • Cause: Salmonella bongori and Salmonella enterica are species of salmonella that measure 0.5 microns in size and are killed at temperatures of 65°C and above
  • Symptoms: Diarrhoea or bloody diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, fever, vomiting
  • Severity: Mild to moderate
Water-borne DiseasesColi strains are rod-shaped bacteria that measure 0.5 microns in width and 2 microns in length. Some species are can be harmful, while others are harmless or even beneficial to us. (Image © Flickr/NIAID)


Combatting Complacence

Singapore is wonderfully safe and sheltered – it is inarguable. In this context, we face no natural disasters that could disrupt our supply of clean water, and we enjoy a plentiful supply thanks to the prudence of our government in developing water reclamation technology. But smaller matters of contamination could occur, such as the rusty brown water that plagued 50 blocks in Punggol in 2016, and another incident in Ang Mo Kio in 2018. Having a personal water filtration system between you and such incidents is an incredible step towards having more peace of mind.

To that end, you may wish to consider a water filtration system from Hydroflux. Besides the range of attractive options that cater to families and offices, big and small, Hydroflux offers many additional features with its water dispensers that greatly improve your habit of hydration.

To find out more about Hydroflux’s systems, drop us a message for a free personal consultation.