Giardiasis – Causes and Symptoms of Giardiasis

Giardiasis is an intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite giardia lamblia. It attaches to the lining of small intestine where it derives nutrients from fats and carbohydrates absorbed by the body. The organism is found in water contaminated with sewage and animal wastes and transmitted through contact or food.

Giardiasis is one of the common cause of waterborne diseases and is also a chief cause of diarrhea. The disease is found among 2 – 5% people in the United States. In developing countries it is found among 20 – 30%.

Causes of Giardiasis
The microscopic organism giardia lives in the intestines of humanbeings and animals. The organisms are enclosed in outer covers called cysts that allow them to survive outside. Once they enter into the body, the cysts dissolve and the organism becomes free and attaches to the intestine.

Cysts are transmitted in the following ways:
Person-to-person contact – Infection may be caused by poor hygiene that is commonly found in places like nursing homes, childcare centers. The parasite also spreads through anal sex.
Eating contaminated food – Food that may have been washed in contaminated water, prepared by an infected person or exposed to air can transmit the disease.
Swallowing contaminated water – Giardia is the common cause of water-borne diseases. Swallowing contaminated water may transmit the disease. The parasites are found in ponds, lakes, rivers and streams as well as in wells, swimming poools, water supplies. Ground water may become contaminated from wastewater discharge, animal faeces or agricultural runoff.

Symptoms of Giardiasis
Some people though they are infected with the parasite never develop the signs and symptoms of giardiasis. But the infection can pass through stools and pass the disease in others. The signs and symptoms in some other people appear within 1 to 2 weeks after exposure to the parasite. The symptoms therefore improve gradually in 2 to 6 weeks.

The symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Passing excessive gas
  • Abdominal cramps and bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite

Sometimes after the acute symptoms pass, the infection begins to enter into a chronic phase i.e prolonged phase.

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