What is giardiasis?
Giardiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the parasite, Giardia lamblia. The parasite can be found in the stools of infected humans and animals (dogs, cats, beavers, rodents). People who drink untreated surface water from ponds, lakes and streams have a higher risk of getting giardiasis. Travelers and persons in institutional settings or day-care centers where children are not toilet trained also have a higher risk of getting giardiasis
How do you get it?
You get giardiasis by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with human or animal stool containing the parasite or its eggs. The parasite is often spread between family members and small children. It is not spread by coughing or sneezing.
What are the symptoms of giardiasis?
The symptoms of giardiasis include frequent, loose, pale, greasy stools (often foul smelling), with gas, bloating, cramps, fatigue, and weight loss. Fever is usually not present, and many people infected with Giardia may have no symptoms at all.
When do symptoms start?
The symptoms usually start 7 to 10 days after exposure to the parasite, but it can be from 5 to 25 days or longer. The symptoms can last from 3 days to 6 weeks or longer.
What is the treatment for giardiasis?
A doctor can prescribe medicine to treat giardiasis. Often a repeat course of the same medication will be needed to get rid of the infection. Some individuals may get better on their own without treatment.
For how long is a person contagious?
A person with the disease is contagious for the entire time they are infected, which may last many months.
If you get it once, can you get it again?
Yes. Being infected with Giardia does not seem to protect you from getting infected again.
Should a person with giardiasis stay home from work or school?
Most people do not have to stay away from work or school. However, food handlers, day care employees, preschool aged children, and health care workers who have diarrhea should stay away from work and school until the diarrhea stops.
How can you keep from getting it?
Do not drink untreated water directly from ponds, lakes, and streams. If you are not sure about the safety of the water, you should boil it for at least one minute. If boiling is not possible, the water should be filtered with a filter rated for cyst removal. Chemically treating water with bleach or iodine tablets may not work as well as boiling or filtering.
Wash your hands carefully after using the toilet, and especially before making or eating food.
Wash your hands thoroughly after changing diapers and after cleaning up a petís waste. After diaper changing, wash the childís hands also.
Keep children away from animal wastes.