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Seasonal Patterns of Gastrointestinal Illness and Streamflow along the Ohio River
Jyotsna S. Jagai 1 , Jeffrey K. Griffiths 2 , Paul K. Kirshen 3 , Patrick Webb 4 , Elena N. Naumova 2
1  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA
2  Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111, USA;(J.K.G.);(E.N.N.)
3  Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA
4  Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA

Published: 07 May 2012 by MDPI in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
MDPI, Volume 9; 10.3390/ijerph9051771
Abstract: Waterborne gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses demonstrate seasonal increases associated with water quality and meteorological characteristics. However, few studies have been conducted on the association of hydrological parameters, such as streamflow, and seasonality of GI illnesses. Streamflow is correlated with biological contamination and can be used as proxy for drinking water contamination. We compare seasonal patterns of GI illnesses in the elderly (65 years and older) along the Ohio River for a 14-year period (1991–2004) to seasonal patterns of streamflow. Focusing on six counties in close proximity to the river, we compiled weekly time series of hospitalizations for GI illnesses and streamflow data. Seasonal patterns were explored using Poisson annual harmonic regression with and without adjustment for streamflow. GI illnesses demonstrated significant seasonal patterns with peak timing preceding peak timing of streamflow for all six counties. Seasonal patterns of illness remain consistent after adjusting for streamflow. This study found that the time of peak GI illness precedes the peak of streamflow, suggesting either an indirect relationship or a more direct path whereby pathogens enter water supplies prior to the peak in streamflow. Such findings call for interdisciplinary research to better understand associations among streamflow, pathogen loading, and rates of gastrointestinal illnesses.
Keywords: drinking water quality, gastrointestinal infections, hydrology, pathogens, Seasonality, streamflow
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