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March 20, 1972

Viruses and Water Quality

JAMA. 1972;219(12):1628. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03190380054017

There is a growing concern with the problem of possible viral pollution of water supplies in this country. From an epidemiological point of view, only the infectious hepatitis virus has been considered to be transmitted by water. Gross contamination of drinking water by sewage wastes was responsible for a major epidemic of infectious hepatitis in New Delhi (1955-1956), and resulted in 35,000 cases, 73 deaths, and a case rate of 2,000/100,000 in a single month. In the United States, the annual incidence of infectious hepatitis has remained at a level of 50,000 to 60,000 cases per year during most of the 1952 to 1970 period, while the total annual incidence of typhoid fever dropped continuously from approximately 2,000 cases in 1952 to only 346 cases in 1970. There has been one significant waterborne outbreak of infectious hepatitis during each of the last three years, including the Worcester, Mass, episode that