Giardiasis is an infection caused by a parasite called Giardia. It causes diarrhea. It is passed on through oral contact with feces. A person can get the parasite by eating food or drinking water that contains feces. When you travel, make sure to not drink water that may be unsafe.
Giardiasis a common intestinal parasite. It is most prevalent in countries where there is poor sanitary conditions, poor water quality control, and overcrowding. However, it is also a common cause of parasitic infection in the U.S. Hikers and campers who drink water from streams and other potentially contaminated sources are often infected.
The parasite that causes giardiasis lives in two stages:
Infection begins when the cysts are taken in through contaminated food or water. Stomach acid activates the cysts and the trophozoites are released. They become attached to the lining of the small intestine and reproduce. Cysts form in the lower intestines and are then passed in the feces.
Each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The time between infection and the onset of symptoms usually is from 1 to 2 weeks. Some infected people have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. The symptoms of giardiasis are a lot like those of other gastrointestinal diseases. Consult a health care provider for diagnosis.
Positive diagnosis of giardiasis is made by microscopic identification of the parasite in stool samples. If you think you may have this illness, contact your health care provider for advice.
Giardiasis may be treated with prescription medications. Specific treatment for giardiasis will be determined by your health care provider based on:
If the infection is not treated and persists, you may not be able to absorb nutrients. It can also cause unintended weight loss.
You can prevent giardiasis by practicing good personal hygiene. Proper hygiene when caring for those who may be infected with the parasite is also important. When visiting in an area where giardiasis may exist:
Call your health care provider if:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider: