On 6 December 2010 a fire in Hemiksem, Belgium, was extinguished by the fire brigade with both river water and tap water. Local physicians were asked to report all cases of gastroenteritis. We conducted a retrospective cohort study among 1000 randomly selected households. We performed a statistical and geospatial analysis. Human stool samples, tap water and river water were tested for pathogens. Of the 1185 persons living in the 528 responding households, 222 (18·7%) reported symptoms of gastroenteritis during the time period 6–13 December. Drinking tap water was significantly associated with an increased risk for gastroenteritis (relative risk 3·67, 95% confidence interval 2·86–4·70) as was place of residence. Campylobacter sp. (2/56), norovirus GI and GII (11/56), rotavirus (1/56) and Giardia lamblia (3/56) were detected in stool samples. Tap water samples tested positive for faecal indicator bacteria and protozoa. The results support the hypothesis that a point-source contamination of the tap water with river water was the cause of the multi-pathogen waterborne outbreak.
To read this research article, click: A Large Community Outbreak of Gastroenteritis Associated with Consumption of Drinking Water Contaminated by River Water, Belgium, 2010