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The role of water use patterns and sewage pollution in incidence of water-borne/enteric diseases along the Ganges river in Varanasi, India

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In Varanasi, India, an estimated 200 million liters daily or more of untreated human sewage is discharged into the Ganges River. River water monitoring over the past 12 years has demonstrated faecal coliform counts up to 10 8  MPN (most probable number) per 100 ml and biological oxygen demand levels averaging over 40 mg/l in the most polluted part of the river in Varanasi. A questionnaire-based survey was used to estimate water-borne and enteric disease incidence and study river use among resident users of the Ganges River in Varanasi. The overall rate of water-borne/enteric disease incidence, including acute gastrointestinal disease, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis-A, and typhoid, was estimated to be about 66% during the one-year period prior to the survey. Logistic regression analysis revealed significant associations between water-borne/enteric disease occurrence and the use of the river for bathing, laundry, washing eating utensils, and brushing teeth. Thirty-three cases of cholera were identified among families exposed to washing clothing or bathing in the Ganges while no cholera cases occurred in unexposed families. Other exposure factors such as lack of sewerage and toilets at residence, children defecating outdoors, poor sanitation, low income and low education levels also showed significant associations with enteric disease outcome. This study provides an estimate of water-borne/enteric disease incidence and identifies possible risk factors for residents who live by and use the Ganges River in Varanasi.
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Keywords: Ganges River; Sewage pollution; Varanasi; enteric disease; water-borne disease

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Microbiology, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA 2: Wildlife Institute of India, Chandrabani, Dehradun, Uttranchal, 248001, India 3: Swatcha Ganga Research Laboratory, Sankat Mochan Foundation, Varanasi, India

Publication date: 01 April 2006

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