Foodborne and Waterborne Illnesses | Infectious Diseases

Infectious Diseases

Foodborne and Waterborne Illnesses

We deliver team-based care for common and rarely seen waterborne and foodborne illnesses. Count on us for prevention, timely diagnoses and proven treatments.

Medically reviewed by Daniel Dodson, M.D. on Nov. 06, 2023.

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Specialized Food and Waterborne Disease Care for Your Entire Family

Our infectious disease team has special expertise in managing foodborne and waterborne illnesses. Because these diseases can affect your entire body, the infectious disease team collaborates with other specialists to deliver the most effective care possible.

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Nationally Recognized Providers

Our infectious disease physicians and nurses are nationally recognized for their expertise in preventing infection.

Pediatric Expertise

Our pediatric infectious disease team cares for infants, children and adolescents. Experienced providers quickly diagnose and treat your child’s illness to get them feeling healthy again.

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Our specialists are actively involved in clinical research in infectious diseases. As a result, you may have early access to clinical trials seeking to improve your care and quality of life.


What Are Foodborne and Waterborne Illnesses?

Food and water may carry germs that can make you sick. One in six people in the U.S. experience food poisoning each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About one in 44 Americans get sick annually from waterborne illnesses.

Any food carrying harmful germs can make you sick. But certain foods are more likely to carry harmful bacteria. They include:

  • Eggs
  • Fruits and vegetables, especially leafy kinds like lettuce
  • Raw and undercooked meat and poultry
  • Raw and undercooked seafood
  • Raw flour
  • Raw (unpasteurized) milk products like soft cheeses
  • Sprouts

Some of the most common kinds of harmful pathogens found in these foods are:

The water you drink, bathe and swim in can also carry harmful bacteria and viruses.

Five Most Common Waterborne Diseases in the U.S:

Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)

Swimmer’s ear is an ear infection in your ear canal. It happens when water leads to inflammation of the ear canal, allowing bacteria to cause infection.


Norovirus, also called the stomach flu, is the most common cause of food poisoning in the U.S. Telltale symptoms of a norovirus infection include severe vomiting and/or diarrhea. You can get norovirus from contaminated liquids and foods or from contact with contaminated hands or objects.


Giardiasis is a foodborne and waterborne illness that causes diarrhea and other intestinal problems. It comes from a parasite called Giardia duodenalis. This parasite spreads via water contaminated by infected feces.

Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto)

Cryptosporidiosis is a waterborne disease that comes from water contaminated with the Cryptosporidium parasite. It causes intestinal symptoms like diarrhea.

Campylobacter Infection (Campylobacteriosis)

Campylobacter is a type of bacterium that causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. People are more likely to get it after eating raw or undercooked poultry. You can also get it from drinking untreated water or raw milk.


Causes of Foodborne Illnesses and Food Poisoning

Foodborne illnesses are preventable. You can better protect yourself and your loved ones by learning how they spread.

The biggest causes of foodborne illnesses are:

Cross-Contamination When Cooking

Foods that may have bacteria should be kept separate from other foods. Contamination of low-risk foods may occur if you use the same surfaces or utensils during preparation of low and high-risk foods.

Improper Food Storage

Temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 F allow harmful bacteria to grow on your food. Keep your refrigerator at 40 F or below to safely store perishable foods. Never leave perishable foods out for longer than two hours. Don’t leave them out for longer than one hour when temperatures are above 90 F.

Not Cooking Meat Long Enough

Germs that cause foodborne illnesses can be killed by heat, but not cooking meats until they reach proper internal temperatures allows bacteria to survive. These proper temperatures vary based on the type of meat you are cooking.

Poor Hygiene

When people don’t wash their hands before and while preparing food, they are more likely to contaminate it. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds in soapy water to protect your food.

"Burden of Foodborne Illness: Findings," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

 "Findings," CDC, 

Why Foodborne and Waterborne Illness Prevention Matters

Millions of people in the U.S. contract foodborne and waterborne illnesses each year. While most people recover, many experience unpleasant and life-interrupting symptoms. These diseases also lead to billions of dollars in health care costs.

Fortunately, foodborne and waterborne diseases are preventable. By following simple and cost-effective prevention tips, you can avoid these diseases and their effects.

According to the CDC, each year:

  • 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses.
  • 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.
  • 17.5 million Americans get sick from waterborne diseases.
  • 118,000 are hospitalized because of waterborne diseases, with 6,630 deaths.
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