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Giardiasis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Giardiasis Definition:

Giardiasis is one of the major diarrheal disease found throughout the world which is caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia. It is a fairly common cause of diarrheal illness and it is estimated that several thousand cases occur in upstate New York each year. Cases may occur sporadically or in clusters or outbreaks.

Giardiasis Causes

Giardia outbreaks can occur in communities in both developed and developing countries where water supplies become contaminated with raw sewage. Some of the very common examples of causing the disease through water contamination is drinking water from lakes or streams, where water-dwelling animals such as beavers and muskrats, or domestic animals such as sheep, have caused contamination. City water may also be infected if sewer lines flood or leak. If you travel overseas, you may get giardiasis by drinking water (even tap water) that hasn't been boiled or treated.

Some of the other main Causes of Giardiasis may be:

  • Giardiasis is caused by the ingestion of infective cysts.
  • It is also spread by direct person-to-person contact, which has caused outbreaks in institutions such as day-care centers.
  • Giardiasis also may be contracted through the ingestion of contaminated water, a mechanism responsible for a significant number of epidemics in the United States. Giardia was implicated in 90 waterborne outbreaks in the United States from 1964-1984, affecting 23,500 persons.
  • unprotected anal sex may also lead to giardiasis.
  • Putting anything into the mouth that has touched the stool of a person or animal with giardiasis
  • Exposure to a family member with giardiasis, is another cause.
  • Eating uncooked or undercooked food contaminated with Giardia cysts.
  • Touching and bringing to the mouth cysts picked up from surfaces (such as toys, bathroom fixtures, changing tables, diaper pails) contaminated with stool from an infected person.

Giardiasis Symptoms

Symptoms of giardiasis typically begin 1-2 weeks after infection and may wane and reappear cyclically. Symptoms are caused largely by the thick coating of Giardia organisms coating the inside of the small intestine and blocking nutrient absorption. Most people are asymptomatic; only about a third of infected people exhibit symptoms. In most patients the illness is self-limiting and lasts 2-4 weeks. Children with chronic infection may fail to thrive. Some patients recover from their giardiasis, with or without any treatment, but symptoms continue, perhaps because there has been bacterial overgrowth within the small intestine.

Giardiasis infection can cause a variety of intestinal symptoms, which include:

  • Watery Diarrhea.
  • Bloating and flatulence.
  • Greasy stools that tend to float
  • Foul smelling, greasy feces.
  • Loss of Appetite.
  • Indigestion.
  • Upset stomach or nausea.
  • Stomach Cramps.
  • Lethargy.

Giardiasis Treatment

  • Acute giardiasis can usually be allowed to run its natural course and tends to clear up on its own.
  • Several prescription drugs are available to treat giardiasis including metronidazole, furazolidone and paromomycin and tinidazole. Treatment typically takes 5 to 7 days, and the medicine is usually given as a liquid that your child can drink. Some of these medicines may have side effects, so your doctor will tell you what to watch for.
  • Nitazoxanide is another drug, which has provided some encouraging results in the management of giardiasis in children.
  • A person with an impaired immune system (immunocompromised), such as a person suffering with AIDS , may need to be treated with a combination of medications.
  • Severe diarrhea may require parenteral fluid replacement to prevent dehydration if oral fluid intake is inadequate.

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