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Water is vital towards life – it’s that simple. You absolutely need water to survive, and without it you would be subjected to dehydration and eventually death. Unfortunately, however, water, or at least not clean water, is not always at our disposal.
In the United States, most people use tap, refrigerated, filtered, and bottled water for drinking, cleaning, and washing alike in their daily lives. There are times, though, where this is not an option. For example, getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with very little resources can leave you at a serious disadvantage. This is where most people would try to locate water, whether it be from a river, stream, or creek, it is probably one of the wisest decisions when you’re stranded, as you can only go approximately three days before dying from dehydration.
Unfortunately, as previously described, not all water is clean when you’re taking it from an outdoor source, and while some waters carry only what you presume is dirt, some can carry waterborne diseases. These are not only uncomfortable due to their symptoms — vomiting, diarrhea, and more — but also because of the sometimes dangerously weak state they can leave you in.
The risk of waterborne disease is everywhere, no matter how crystal clear that creek winding through the woods might be, and trusting this knowledge could potentially save your life.
Where Do Waterborne Diseases Come From?
You may consider the fact that water in the wild is a natural source and having contamination seems a tad ludicrous. However, just like setting out a cup of water in a dusty room, it is not difficult for unwanted particles to make their way in. The majority of waterborne diseases begin with pathogens — any disease-producing agent — passed into the water through animals and people. It is not uncommon for us to get sick — catching a cold or the flu is relatively easy and not unheard of. It goes the same for animals. When fecal matter is released, the pathogens caused by even common illnesses can be released into the water, should it be close enough to said water source. Checking your water source for signs of animal droppings is not effective, though, because it could be anywhere along the shore, and could deposit any types of bacteria and viruses into the water.
Which Pathogens Cause Waterborne Diseases?
Waterborne diseases can be passed down from any source of water that is contaminated with a surviving pathogen. The most common of these is the protozoan, also known as Giardia. Serious diarrhea and vomiting can occur when contracting this waterborne disease, lasting for weeks at a time in most cases.
All viruses sustained in water can produce serious intestinal pain and discomfort. Other notable waterborne diseases are salmonella and E. coli, both of which threaten water supplies, though not as commonly in the United States. Even if water in the US is less likely to be contaminated by such diseases, it is still exposed to other toxins from agriculture and industrial pollution, as well as some algae that can produce its own harmful toxins, and any water containing algae should be avoided.
What are Some Ways to Avoid Waterborne Diseases?
One of the main tactics in decontaminating potentially harmful water is to boil it. The main problem with this is that there are a variety of different times that people consider long enough to decontaminate water. For some, boiling time depends on many different variables, mostly pertaining to the quality of the water to begin with, however for others just barely boiling is enough to rid the water of any potential harm.
The National Park Service believes that boiling water for one minute at sea level, and another minute for every one thousand (1,000) feet above sea level, is the safest instructions to follow.Boiling is the most common method to decontaminate water; however another option is using purifiers in the form of liquids and tablets.
Filters often remove bacteria from water, while failing to clear out viruses, which is where a purifier or boiling is necessary.It is good to always keep something, whether it is a lighter to start a fire or a bottle of purifying tablets, at the ready to decontaminate water should you have the potential to be in a situation where clean water is not available.
Being prepared is the safest option of all. Having clean, disease-free drinking water is essential to surviving should you ever be in a stranded position, and by ensuring that you take the necessary precautions beforehand, you can save yourself a whole lot of pain through viruses and dehydration.Don’t give waterborne diseases the chance to get you – prepare yourself, and you’ll never have to face them.
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