Giardiasis, also known as Beaver Fever, is a parasitic infection of the digestive tract which affects many animals and humans. Infection often comes with no symptoms, but in about a third of those infected it causes a number of uncomfortable symptoms such as; diarrhea, stomach cramps, lack of appetite, bloating, burping (often with a taste of sulfur), flatulence, blood in urine and occasionally vomiting. These symptoms usually begin a week or two after the initial infection and may continue to reoccur in a cycle if left untreated. Untreated giardiasis is also known to cause temporary lactose intolerance, which can become permanent. It is estimated to infect more than 200,000 people worldwide. Let’s find out what causes giardiasis and how it can be treated.
What causes giardiasis?
Giardiasis is caused by a microscopic parasite called giardia lamblia. This parasite can be found in water, soil, food and on surfaces that have been contaminated with feces (poop) from a person or animal that carries the parasite. It is commonly caught from drinking improperly treated water or from improperly prepared food. However, it can also be passed directly between people and from animals to people.
Giardia starts life as a hardy cyst that can survive in harsh conditions and this is the only form that can live outside the digestive tract. Once the cysts are ingested the parasites emerge. The giardia parasites colonize and reproduce in the small intestine, where they absorb their nutrients. Later they reproduce and the new cysts pass through the digestive system into the feces.
Treatment and prevention
The most effective treatment of giardiasis is anti parasitic drugs such as metronidazole, tinidazole and nitazoxanide. To prevent the disease it is important to maintain good hygiene, including hand washing before eating and after using the toilet. It may also be beneficial to treat water that comes from an untreated source before drinking.
Did you know?
Other common animal carriers of giardia are dogs, cats, cattle, beavers, sheep and deer.