Prevalence and direct costs of emergency department visits and hospitalizations for selected diseases that can be transmitted by water, United States

J Water Health. 2017 Oct;15(5):673-683. doi: 10.2166/wh.2017.083.


National emergency department (ED) visit prevalence and costs for selected diseases that can be transmitted by water were estimated using large healthcare databases (acute otitis externa, campylobacteriosis, cryptosporidiosis, Escherichia coli infection, free-living ameba infection, giardiasis, hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection, Legionnaires' disease, nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) infection, Pseudomonas-related pneumonia or septicemia, salmonellosis, shigellosis, and vibriosis or cholera). An estimated 477,000 annual ED visits (95% CI: 459,000-494,000) were documented, with 21% (n = 101,000, 95% CI: 97,000-105,000) resulting in immediate hospital admission. The remaining 376,000 annual treat-and-release ED visits (95% CI: 361,000-390,000) resulted in $194 million in annual direct costs. Most treat-and-release ED visits (97%) and costs ($178 million/year) were associated with acute otitis externa. HAV ($5.5 million), NTM ($2.3 million), and salmonellosis ($2.2 million) were associated with next highest total costs. Cryptosporidiosis ($2,035), campylobacteriosis ($1,783), and NTM ($1,709) had the highest mean costs per treat-and-release ED visit. Overall, the annual hospitalization and treat-and-release ED visit costs associated with the selected diseases totaled $3.8 billion. As most of these diseases are not solely transmitted by water, an attribution process is needed as a next step to determine the proportion of these visits and costs attributable to waterborne transmission.

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Waterborne Diseases / classification
  • Waterborne Diseases / economics
  • Waterborne Diseases / epidemiology*