WHAT IS IT?
Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease caused by the parasite Giardia. A parasite is an organism that feeds off another to survive. It is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces from infected humans or animals. Giardia infection is the most common intestinal parasitic disease that affects humans and animal, including pets. Giardia infects people when they swallow the parasite. It can be spread by:
- Swallowing Giardia picked up from surfaces (such as bathroom handles, changing tables, diaper pails, or toys) that contain feces (poop) from an infected person or animal
- Drinking water or using ice made from water sources where Giardia may live (for example, untreated or improperly treated water from lakes, streams, or wells)
- Swallowing water while swimming or playing in water where Giardia may live, especially in lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, and streams
- Eating uncooked food that contains Giardia organisms
- Having contact with someone who is ill with giardiasis
- Traveling to countries where giardiasis is common
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
- Gas or flatulence
- Abnormal stools
- Abdominal cramps
Some people with Giardiasis will have no symptoms. Symptoms generally begin 1 to 3 weeks after becoming infected. Giardiasis usually lasts 2 to 6 weeks.
HOW CAN I PREVENT CONTRACTING THIS DISEASE?
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent Giardiasis. Ill people should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Dehydration can be life-threatening for infants.
You can prevent Giardiasis by:
- Practicing good hygiene
- Frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water, especially after toilet visits, changing diapers, before eating, preparing food, or gardening.
- Not swimming for at least 1 week after diarrhea stops.
- Minimize contact with the feces of all animals, wearing gloves and washing your hands afterward if you need to handle it.
- If the safety of you drinking water is in doubt:
- Boiling your water for one minute.
- Using a filter that has been rated by the National Safety Foundation (NSF) Standard 53 or NSF Standard 58 for cyst and oocyst reduction
- Cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces immediately with a bleach-based household cleaner.
- Properly cleaning up after ill pets and people. You can also use steam to clean the area, 158ºF for 5 minutes or 212ºF for 1 minute.
- Washing clothing and linens soiled with stool or vomit in hot water and soap, immediately.