Broad Quito Drinking Water Problem Identified

by Rob Dinerman

November 11, 2002  -In the wake of an article that appeared in today's New York Times, the search to detect the cause of the Hepatitis A outbreak that felled a dozen players and officials in the Pan American Federation Cup competition late this past summer may well be taking a new direction. The Times article reports that more than 1,000 people have fallen ill in a town outside of Quito, Ecuador, the host city of the ten-day tournament, when they became infected by water that became contaminated after purification systems of local farms were apparently flooded. A sanitary emergency was declared after one hospital was deluged by 1,084 cases in less than a week and access to drinking water has been completely shut off pending a resolution of what has become a fast-moving and dangerous situation.

From the beginning of the Quito Squash Hepatitis A outbreak, whose victims included American star Preston Quick, as well as his compatriots Paul Brogna and Rishad Alikhan, who attended the event as referees, the water supply has been suspected as a likely culprit, especially given the insistence of all the women players, none of whom fell ill, on drinking only bottled water, a piece of precautionary solicitude that was unfortunately not shared by their more indestructible-feeling male counterparts, all too many of whom succumbed at or shortly after the six-week incubation period had run its course.

Thankfully, many of the diagnosed group have recovered nicely, albeit in some cases after hospital stays, though all are still regaining their strength and vitality after their bouts with a malady that is known to sap both of these qualities to a significant degree.

A number of the national squash associations, including the USSRA, have already decided to order gamma globulin shots and other pertinent inoculations and/or vaccinations when it sends future teams to at-risk areas, and one noted physician, Dr. Carlos Espinal, a specialist in infectious diseases and the current President of the Colombian Squash Association (one of a half-dozen national squash organizing bodies to have one of its own among the list of victims), is in the process of compiling an "epidemic graph" to determine the attack rate and other indicators and ultimately to
ascertain as precisely as possible the cause of the epidemic that so blackened the 2002 Pan Am Fed experience.

Dr. Espinal recently noted that he still had not heard back from a number of players concerning the specifics of their experience with the illness and that he still needs this information in order to produce the most comprehensive and beneficial report. There
is no doubt that this most recent disclosure regarding Quito's tainted water supply and its substantial effects upon the local population will affect the configuration of this research effort, which hopefully will lead to the adoption of measures that will maximize the safety of future team members and protect them from a recurrence of this unfortunate phenomenon.

This first appeared on

Back To Dinerman Archive