Water quality issues and infant diarrhoea in a South American province

V. B. Rajal, C. Cruz, Jerold A Last

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In the province of Salta, in the Northwest region of Argentina, almost two-thirds of the population live in absolute poverty, and diseases associated with poverty are rampant. Almost 12% of the total population of the province are children below 5 years of age; almost half of these infants are living in situations where the basic necessities are not available. Primitive sanitary conditions, including widespread contamination of available water supplies with pathogens, contribute to a major public health problem. Infant mortality was 17% higher for Salta than for Argentina as a whole in 2001. A major cause of death for these children is infectious disease, especially respiratory and intestinal diseases. In Salta, more than half of the total population of infants is affected by diarrhoea annually. The infectious pathogens are diverse: bacteria (predominantly in spring and summer), viruses (especially in the winter) and parasites (endemic in some situations). This paper evaluates current methods used to test for the presence of pathogens in drinking water; discusses why these methods are less than adequate; documents an episode of contamination in a local water supply source; and suggests appropriate methods that can be used to better address this major public health issue effectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-363
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Infant mortality
  • Infectious disease
  • Latin America
  • Poverty
  • Public health policies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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