DRINKING WATER AND WEAK IMMUNE SYSTEMS 1|2 Contaminated water could be harmful to anyone, even more so for those with weakened immune systems. In fact, some organisms that could show up in water may be harmless to most, but deadly to others. A weakened immune system can be a result of having an organ transplant, having HIV or AIDS or from undergoing chemotherapy. Even with patients with less common congenital or acquired immune system dysfunction. A weaker immune system means a higher likelihood of contracting disease from waterborne contaminants. Cryptosporidiosis, a diarrhea disease known better as "crypto", is one ailment caused by a microscopic parasite that can have a greater effect on a weakened immune system. In fact, over the past 20 years, it has become one of the more common waterborne illnesses. Cryptosporidium parvum lives in intestines of humans and animals and is passed in their stool. This disease is communicable and can be passed by water, sex, sharing food and even touching farm animals. The parasite is protected by an outer shell, which allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and-here's the kicker-- makes it very resistant to chlorine disinfection. The parasite is found in every region of the United States and throughout the world in drinking and recreational water. The illness can last a few days to a week in a normal person, but for someone with AIDS, it can be fatal. Ironically, with something you catch from water, water is a huge cure for this. With diarrhea, people become very dehydrated. Drinking clean, pure water is a way to get back to health. However, once inflicted, the disease can recur. Only point of use filters that remove particles one micrometer or less in diameter can be used to remove cryptosporidium. The best prevention is to practice safe water practices. Most important, this means clean drinking water. The Center for Disease Control states on their website that all reverse osmosis filters protect the best against crypto. Some other filters may work, but they must say "absolute 1 micron" to be sure. Private water supplies such as well water systems are not regulated by the USEPA and are generally not treated or monitored. In these situations well water should always be tested regularly to maintain safe water source. Symptoms of previously healthy patients with cryptosporidiosis: Watery, non-bloody diarrhea (can last anywhere from 7 to 20 days) Nausea Abdominal cramping Loss of appetite Headache Fever Another disease to be aware of is toxoplasmosis-- a disease from a single-celled parasite toxoplasma gondii. It is noted that there are over 60-million people who are infected with this disease-causing parasite, however most immune systems fight off an illness before symptoms arise, the parasite lying dormant. But for those with weaker immune systems, it's not that easy. According to the Center for Disease Control, those with weak immune systems should ask their doctors about getting a blood test for toxoplasma. If results are positive, doctors can inform the patient if and when medicine should be taken to prevent the infection from reactivating. A negative test means the person was never infected. But- precautions need to be take to avoid infection. Warning signs of toxoplasmosis include flu-like symptoms and achy muscles. In a healthy person, the "bug" will work its way out. In rarer cases, brain, nerve and eye damage can result. If this disease rings a bell, you may recall it as something pregnant women are cautioned about as well-- the parasite is also found in cat feces and those carrying babies are urged not to changed the litter. It is important for the health care provider to consider a patient’s individual susceptibilities and the relative risks from microbial pathogens and chemicals. Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) suggest that “…decisions should be based on knowledge of likely contaminants in a specific source of water, an understanding of the risks and benefits of the various alternatives to tap water, and understanding of the individual’s susceptibility.” These are just two major diseases that can affect someone with a weak immune system. Don’t let your body be your only filter against the contaminants in your water. Having a water filtration system at home can protect you from consuming any harmful substances found in water. Filtration systems work to remove heavy metals, bacteria, chlorine and many other chemicals. These types of contaminants are often found in water and are harmful to our health, even more so to those with weak immune systems. Protecting your water source could be the only way to be 100% crypto free! Don’t let your body be your only filter against the contaminants in your water. Maintaining our health will give us the strength to live positive and meaningful lives and more importantly to be able to help many others around us.