Drought-stricken communities are being warned about a possible link between extremely dry conditions and a spike in serious stomach bugs.
Parts of Queensland experienced outbreaks of gastro bug cryptosporidiosis during the Millenium Drought, with new research finding the two could be linked.
Lead researcher Dr Aparna Lal from the Australian National University said the estimated risk of cryptosporidiosis in Queensland plummeted by 57 per cent once the Millenium Drought ended in 2009.
Concentrations of the cryptosporidiosis bug increased in waterways when river flow and volume dropped during drought, Dr Lal said.
“Cryptosporidiosis is one of the most common water-related parasitic diseases in the world, and Australia reports the second highest rate of the illness in humans among many developed countries,” Dr Lal said.
Because livestock could also spread the bug, changing land use patterns were another possible factor contributing to outbreaks during times of drought, Dr Lal said.
The study, published in the Journal of Water and Health, also examined spikes in cryptosporidiosis stomach bugs along the Murray Darling Basin.
The risk of contracting the bug dropped by 84 per cent in the Murray Darling region once the drought ended, the study found.
Cryptosporidiosis is caused by microscopic parasites, with symptoms including diarrhea, stomach cramps, fevers and vomiting.