Waterborne disease outbreak detection: an integrated approach using health administrative databases
Hundreds of waterborne disease outbreaks (WBDO) of acute gastroenteritis (AGI) due to contaminated tap water are reported in developed countries each year. Such outbreaks are probably under-detected. The aim of our study was to develop an integrated approach to detect and study clusters of AGI in geographical areas with homogeneous exposure to drinking water. Data for the number of AGI cases are available at the municipality level while exposure to tap water depends on drinking water networks (DWN). These two geographical units do not systematically overlap. This study proposed to develop an algorithm which would match the most relevant grouping of municipalities with a specific DWN, in order that tap water exposure can be taken into account when investigating future disease outbreaks. A space-time detection method was applied to the grouping of municipalities. Seven hundred and fourteen new geographical areas (groupings of municipalities) were obtained compared with the 1,310 municipalities and the 1,706 DWN. Eleven potential WBDO were identified in these groupings of municipalities. For ten of them, additional environmental investigations identified at least one event that could have caused microbiological contamination of DWN in the days previous to the occurrence of a reported WBDO.