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Thread: Giardia Discussion

  1. #1
    Senior Member MattC's Avatar
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    Giardia Discussion

    I've been thinking about starting this thread for a while, and HikerBob's query
    over on the heat illness thread reminded me. He asked, more or less:

    What, if any is the risk of contracting giardia (or other intestinal nasties) from a little water getting in your mouth while dunking your head in a stream, splashing water on your face, etc?

    I'll add:

    How about just eating with your hands after washing them in the stream?
    Can the cysts live on dry hands? Under fingernails?

    Here's a CDC link which offers good info, but not a conclusive answer to our questions:
    http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasi...ht_giardia.htm

    It does say that surfaces can be contaminated. Usually I use a little hand sanitizer before eating w/ my hands while in the backcountry. I don't know if it's really necessary.

    Matt
    Last edited by mcorsar; 06-27-2005 at 05:13 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcorsar
    What, if any is the risk of contracting giardia (or other intestinal nasties) from a little water getting in your mouth while dunking your head in a stream, splashing water on your face, etc?
    According to http://lomaprieta.sierraclub.org/pcs...ardia_2003.pdf studies have shown that one has to ingest 10 or more cysts to have a reasonable probability of contracting giardia.

    So it depends on how bad the water is and how much you ingest.

    There are parts of the world where one is advised to close one's mouth during a shower. (Don't know which bugs are the problem here.)

    Doug

  3. #3
    Senior Member MattC's Avatar
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    Thanks for that link. Even though it pertains specifically to the High Sierra, there's a lot of good general info. It says the cysts cannot tolerate freezing or drying, but it also says later that they could live a day or two in dry or freezing conditions. The info about the numbers of cysts, liklihood of contraction and liklihood of symptoms is also useful. Sounds like the chances of getting symptoms are actually pretty low, and that water is often not the cause. None of this is reason to not be cautious though, at least in my opinion.

    Anyone ever have, or know anyone who has had giardiasis? If so, how do they think they contracted it? I'm talking an actually laboratory diagnosis here, not "I was sick, I might have had it."
    Within the VFTT community there have been cases of heat exhaustion, frostbite, hypothermia, injuries, etc. If no one has experienced giardiasis, perhaps it's an indication (albeit very unscientific) that the illness is not as common among northeast backcountry folks as one might expect.

    Matt

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    Senior Member poison ivy's Avatar
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    I hate to admit it but I had a mild case of giardia a couple of years ago. My theory on how I got it was from swimming in a contaminated pond. I treat all my drinking water, so I know that wasn't the culpruit. The only thing I could come up with at the time was that I swam in a pond and probably swallowed some water while doing so.

    - Ivy

  5. #5
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcorsar
    Anyone ever have, or know anyone who has had giardiasis? If so, how do they think they contracted it? I'm talking an actually laboratory diagnosis here, not "I was sick, I might have had it."
    Within the VFTT community there have been cases of heat exhaustion, frostbite, hypothermia, injuries, etc. If no one has experienced giardiasis, perhaps it's an indication (albeit very unscientific) that the illness is not as common among northeast backcountry folks as one might expect.
    I have had it and been treated for it. It wasn't much fun.

    One can only guess where one picks up such a bug. I picked it up during a hiking trip in Switzerland. My guess is that I picked it up in town, but who knows?

    Don't forget that there are other parasites/water borne diseases. Focusing on one and ignoring the others could be counter-productive...

    The risk of contracting a parasite from surface water is hard to determine. If you are careful about choosing water sources, the risk in the DAKs and Whites is probably fairly low, but I'd guess there are some places and times at which one could pick up one parasite or another. (For instance, heavy rains could wash fecal material into the water.) On the average, it sounds like one is more likely to pick up intestinal parasites from your companions, but I'm sure you can pick them up in the woods if you were careless.

    Some cases of Giardia are asymptomatic, so there are people running around with it, and if they aren't careful, spreading it...

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 06-27-2005 at 07:14 PM.

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    Senior Member Whiteman's Avatar
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    The original ADKIns diet

    While ruminating on a solo hike once, it occurred to me that giardia is probably the original ADKIns diet--Adirondack Insurance diet, because if you get it, you're sure to lose some weight. Seems like there might be better choices for dieting.
    -David

    41/46, 48/48, 66/67, 109/115 (and closing fast)

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    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    In the ADK's I often drink untreated water . Only when I'm above high use areas and not usually more than a half a liter a day. I carry a filter and use it but it is so nice to stick your head in a stream and drink freely.
    That article linked by DougPaul is excellent and indicates that the whole Giardia "thing" is totally overblown in the Sierra. They found more cysts in city tap water than in unfiltered stream water from the High Sierra.

    The water in the ADK's is not tested according to an e-mail I received from Chief Forester Kris Alberga in response to a specific query I made. So we filter our water "just in case" allthough we don't really know if we're actually filtering out any pathogenic organisms or not.
    Last edited by Neil; 06-27-2005 at 07:21 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member MattC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    Don't forget that there are other parasites/water borne diseases. Focusing on one and ignoring the others could be counter-productive...
    Some cases of Giardia are asymptomatic, so there are people running around with it, and if they aren't careful, spreading it...

    Doug
    Both good points. All the more reason for "universal precautions."

  9. #9
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil
    In the ADK's I often drink untreated water . Only when I'm above high use areas and not usually more than a half a liter a day. I carry a filter and use it but it is so nice to stick your head in a stream and drink freely.
    I read an account of a group that was drinking water from Clear Creek in Grand Canyon. Then they took a hike upstream and found a dead deer lying in the creek.

    Obviously, you pays your money and you takes your chances. Locals often do better than visitors because their systems are adapted to the local pathogens.

    That said, officials in this lawsuit-happy time have incentive to err on the side of caution, and water treatment device manufacturers also have incentive to play up the issue.


    Oh yes, while I have the soapbox, don't forget that if a filter input and output hoses touch or get confused, you can contaminate the filter...

    Doug

  10. #10
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    I read an account of a group that was drinking water from Clear Creek in Grand Canyon. Then they took a hike upstream and found a dead deer lying in the creek.
    Doug
    That's a good one. LOL

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hillwalker's Avatar
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    Beaver Fever

    Does anyone here remember all the really fine trout fishing ponds that used to be on the way up to Zealand Hut. Well the dams were breached and they were drained about fifteen years ago because the authorities felt there was a link between the Giardia in the Bethleham water supply and those ponds. One of the sources of the water for the town of Bethleham is a resevoir just below the Zealand Hut trailhead parking lot. My only bout with Giardia was after participating in a rescue/carry out of a hiker from the Rocky Branch Shelter #2 during which many of us drank from the Rocky Branch due to the stresses of an all night carry. I was a volunteer living in a tent at Camp Dodge that summer and thought I was going to die. It felt like malaria; fevers, sweats, but no vomiting for days and days. I evacuated myself back to civilization after about a week. Not a fun time
    Last edited by Hillwalker; 06-27-2005 at 08:30 PM. Reason: spelling

  12. #12
    Senior Member HockeyPuck's Avatar
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    I've been concerned about my dog getting giardia. He loves the water and is always drinking out of lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, mud puddles and any other sources of water. Almost every time we are outdoors he finds water. Can dogs get giardia? Any ideas how to prevent my pup from drinking the stream water?

  13. #13
    Senior Member Artex's Avatar
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    Has anyone heard that if you get giardia once, there's a good chance you can't get it again? Any truth to that?

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    Senior Member Warren's Avatar
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    A few years back I was using myself as test, drinking unfiltered/treated water unless I knew I was downstream from a campsite or heavy use area. It was my intent to do so for a few years and then get myself tested for giardia. I started hiking with other folks soon after and never really carried through, I wasn't going to volunteer others intestines in my little test. I'd still like to do this, but ideally I would need to be tested before hand, who knows I may be a carry the bug already.

    Anyway, I'm still out to lunch on the topic, I suspect it's not as bad as we may think but there's no proof to that.

    I have heard that dogs can be carriers, but don't (or tend not to) show symptoms. Another good link that looks at the topic:

    http://www.yosemite.org/naturenotes/Giardia.htm

  15. #15
    Senior Member Warren's Avatar
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    Artex,

    You can get it again. You may be have heard (and I could be confusing this myself) either that you can ride it out and then show symptoms occasionally or not at all also, some folk just don't show symptoms.
    Last edited by Warren; 06-28-2005 at 07:25 AM.

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