Study authors Michael Beach of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says healthcare costs for three common waterborne diseases -- Legionnaires' disease, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis -- amount to $539 million annually.
Using data from a large insurance claims database from 2004 to 2007, Beach and colleagues estimated the hospitalization cost of the waterborne diseases. For each disease, they calculated the cost paid by the insurer, the out-of-pocket cost to the patient and the total amount paid.
"These cost data highlight that water-related diseases pose not only a physical burden to the thousands of people sickened by them each year, but also a substantial burden in healthcare costs, including direct government payments through Medicare and Medicaid," Beach said in a statement.
Inpatient hospitalization costs per case averaged more than $34,000 for Legionnaires' disease, about $9,000 for giardiasis and more than $21,000 for cryptosporidiosis, the study says.
"When people think about these diseases, they usually think of a simple case of diarrhea, which is a nuisance but quickly goes away," Beach said. "However, these infections can cause severe illness that often result in hospital stays of more than a week, which can quickly drive up healthcare costs."
The findings were presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.