Woman takes 1 drink from a water fountain, and it changes her life

Sep 17, 2015 at 12:34 p.m. ET
Image: Gail Shotlander/Moment/Getty Images

Drinking from a water fountain is one of the most basic things we all do every day. But for one woman, doing so at her college graduation almost killed her. Her story is terrifying.

On June 8, 2009, just days after she'd graduated from college, Nicole Luongo passed out in a Barnes Noble. That incident set off "a six-year medical journey that has changed my entire view of not only myself, but the people around me,” Luongo told Winchester Patch.

After months and months of testing, Luongo discovered that she had Giardia, something she'd contracted when she drank from a water fountain during her college graduation. Scary, right?

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According to the CDC: "Giardia s one of the leading causes of waterborne disease, or disease caused by contaminated drinking water and recreational water. Recreational water is water from swimming pools, hot tubs, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, or streams that can be contaminated with sewage or feces from humans or animals."

It's as gross as you can imagine. And what's worse is that the sickness is debilitating beyond belief. Luongo was more or less subject to chemotherapy, infusions of which she will have to continue for up to 10 years. Horrible.

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As for how the rest of us can avoid this, it's all about using water intelligently. In the pool, the CDC recommends:

  • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower before you get in the water.
  • Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  • Don’t swallow the water.

As for how you avoid it in a drinking fountain, it seems knowing how the place filters their water is the first step. After that, it's bringing your own water bottle religiously and drinking out of it exclusively. Yes, it's annoying, but if it keeps you from getting this sickness, it seems worth it, no?

I keep thinking back to the other day at the park with my kids when I drank out of a fountain because there was no other option. I let my baby drink it, too! I hope we got lucky. And next time, we'll be remembering out bottled water. Scary stuff.