Giardiasis ( Giardia )
What is Giardiasis?
Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease caused by the microscopic parasite Giardia. A parasite is an organism that feeds off of another to survive. Once a person or animal (for example, cats, dogs, cattle, deer, and beavers) has been infected with Giardia, the parasite lives in the intestines and is passed in feces (poop). Once outside the body, Giardia can sometimes survive for weeks or months. Giardia can be found within every region of the U.S. and around the world.
How do you get Giardiasis and how is it spread?
Giardiasis can be spread by:
What are the symptoms of Giardiasis?
Giardia infection can cause a variety of intestinal symptoms, which include:
How long after infection do symptoms appear?
Symptoms of giardiasis normally begin 1 to 3 weeks after becoming infected.
How long will symptoms last?
In otherwise healthy people, symptoms of giardiasis may last 2 to 6 weeks. Occasionally, symptoms last longer. Medications can help decrease the amount of time symptoms last.
Who is most at risk of getting Giardiasis?
Though giardiasis is commonly thought of as a camping or backpacking-related disease and is sometimes called "Beaver Fever," anyone can get giardiasis. People more likely to become infected include:
What should I do if I think I may have Giardiasis?
Contact your health care provider.
How is a Giardiasis diagnosed?
Your health care provider will ask you to submit stool (poop) samples to see if you are infected. Because testing for giardiasis can be difficult, you may be asked to submit several stool specimens collected over several days.
What is the treatment for Giardiasis?
Many prescription drugs are available to treat giardiasis. Although the Giardia parasite can infect all people, infants and pregnant women may be more likely to experience dehydration from the diarrhea caused by giardiasis. To prevent dehydration, infants and pregnant women should drink a lot of fluids while ill. Dehydration can be life threatening for infants, so it is especially important that parents talk to their health care providers about treatment options for their infants.
What can I do to Prevent and Control Giardiasis?
To prevent and control infection with the Giardia parasite, it is important to: