What is Giardia?

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Giardia is a parasite that infect intestines and causes ‘giardiasis’ which can lead to acute or chronic diarrhea. This parasite lives inside the intestines of people and animals. Before they are transferred to feces, they are encased within hard shells called cysts, which help them to survive outside the intestines for months. After the parasite gets inside of its host, its shells dissolve and the parasites are released.

This parasite can get into a person’s system through the following:

1. Contaminated water- drinking contaminated water is the most common cause of giardia infection. Giardia parasites are often found in lakes, ponds,rivers and streams worldwide. Surface water can become contaminated due to waste water discharge or animal feces while children in diapers and people with diarrhea may contaminate pools and spas.

2. Contaminated food- giardia parasite can be transmitted through food when its handler has giardiasis or water with giardia is used to wash the raw food. However, this parasite can be killed through cooking making it less of a source.

3. Person-to-person contact- this usually happens when one person gets in contact with any fecal material. Examples are parents changing their children’s diaper and people engaging in anal sex.

Some people with giardia infection doesn’t show symptoms but can still carry the parasite and spread it through their stool. For those who get sick, patients usually experience symptoms of watery and sometimes foul- smelling stool, fatigue,abdominal cramps, belching gas, nausea and weight loss. Symptoms may last two to six weeks.

Giardia infection are often treated with antibiotics and prescription drugs.However, most doctors focus more on the patient’s hydration as diarrhea caused by giardia infection can lead to dehydration. Infants are at most risk of dehydration that’s why health care providers advise the parents to fully coordinate with their doctors about different treatment options available for their child.

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