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Morris Robert D.; Naumova, Elena N.; Griffiths, Jeffrey K.
Epidemiology: May 1998
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The patterns of incidence and pathways of spread for cryptosporidiosis are poorly understood. In this study, we explored the possibility that drinking water caused significant water-borne cryptosporidiosis in Milwaukee well before the massive documented outbreak in April 1993. We generated time series of daily counts of emergency room visits and hospital admissions for gastroenteritis in Milwaukee using the billing records of the Medical College of Wisconsin for January 1, 1992, through May 3, 1993. The Milwaukee Water Works provided us with data on drinking water turbidity for the same period. The service area of the South Plant experienced a sharp rise in turbidity just before the outbreak. During the outbreak period, gastroenteritis events were most strongly associated with turbidity at a lag of 7 days in children and 8 days in adults. It is reasonable to conclude that these lag times reflect the incubation period of Cryptosporidium. During the 434 days before the outbreak, gastroenteritis events were most strongly associated with turbidity at a lag of 8 days among children and 9 days among adults in the service area of the North Plant, the plant that experienced the highest effluent turbidity during this period. These findings are consistent with the conclusion that waterborne cryptosporidiosis was occurring in Milwaukee for more than a year before the documented outbreak. (Epidemiology 1998;9:264–270)

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