Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Water Quality - Pollutant Sources and Impacts

Pathogens are organisms that cause disease. Viruses, bacteria and protozoa are the three types of organisms responsible for most waterborne disease. The contamination of water with fecal matter from humans or other animals is the source of these diseases. In most cases, the intestinal tract is affected and symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, chills and headaches. Some waterborne diseases can cause death.



Viruses cause a number of waterborne diseases:

  • poliomyelitis (polio) – which can cause paralysis
  • viral hepatitis (Type A) – affecting the liver
  • Norwalk gastroenteritis – most common cause of gastroenteritis
  • rotavirus diarrhea – very common in children

Vaccines are available for poliomyelitis, but not for the other virally-transmitted diseases. Prevention is accomplished by maintaining good public health practices, including a safe water supply.


Ridding the world of polio

Hepatitis and contaminated strawberries

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