What is giardiasis?
Giardiasis is an intestinal disease caused by the parasite Giardia Iamblia. Giardiasis occurs worldwide and infects children more than adults.
What are the symptoms of giardiasis?
Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps, bloating, weight loss and fatigue.
Bowel movements may be loose and greasy. Some infected individuals may not show any symptoms at all.
Symptoms appear within 5 to 25 days after infection with the parasite, however 7 to 10 days is the most common. Diarrhea usually lasts several weeks, but occasionally becomes chronic (lasting more than 4 weeks).
How is giardiasis spread?
Giardiasis is found in the gut of infected humans and animals (beavers, muskrats, pets).
It is usually spread through fecally contaminated water supplies. People should not drink untreated surface water. This includes water from lakes, rivers and streams. An infected food handler could possibly contaminate food if they do not wash their hands thoroughly.
This parasite can also spread from person to person through hand to mouth contact. This can occur in daycare centres, where children are in close contact.
How is giardiasis treated?
Treatment for the infection is available through a health care provider. Drink plenty of fluids and monitor the illness for signs of dehydration.
Signs of dehydration include:
- dry lips and mouth
- dark coloured urine with a foul smell
- lack of energy
- flushed skin
- increased heart rate
How can you prevent giardiasis?
- protect water supplies against contamination with human and animal feces
- untreated surface water from lakes, streams and rivers should never be considered safe to drink; standard chlorination alone will not kill giardia cysts therefore filtration prior to chlorination is required
- if you suspect a water supply is contaminated, boil the water for at least 5 minutes before drinking it
- wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, following children’s diaper changes and before handling food
- ensure proper sewage disposal