Giardia lamblia

The scientific name for what is commonly known as Giardia, a parasite that can infect humans and animals and live in the intestines.

It is considered rare, with fewer than 200,000 cases per year of infection. However, if you account for a sample that is restricted to hikers and outdoors persons, it’s not as rare of an ocurrence.


Giardia Life Cycle

According to the abstract of this paper:

Giardia has one of the simplest life cycles of all human parasites. The life cycle is composed of 2 stages: (1) the trophozoite, which exists freely in the human small intestine; and (2) the cyst, which is passed into the environment. No intermediate hosts are required.

Upon ingestion of the cyst (see the second image below), contained in contaminated water or food, excystation occurs in the stomach and the duodenum in the presence of acid and pancreatic enzymes. The trophozoites pass into the small bowel where they multiply rapidly, with a doubling time of 9-12 hours.

Sounds nasty.

Beaver Fever

beaver giardiaBeaver Fever is the colloquial term for when someone gets giardia. Beavers have historically been one of the main carriers of Giardia and have caused many a miner and pioneer to curse the water they drank from. The scientific term is Giardiasis and according to the CDC :

Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease caused by the microscopic parasite Giardia. A parasite is an organism that feeds off of another to survive. Once a person or animal (for example, cats, dogs, cattle, deer, and beavers) has been infected with Giardia, the parasite lives in the intestines and is passed in feces (poop).

Giardiasis Facts

  • Treatable by a medical professional
  • Requires a medical diagnosis
  • Lab tests or imaging always required
  • Spreads easily
  • Short-term: resolves within days to weeks

Beaver Fever Symptoms

According to Wikipedia:  About 10% of those infected have no symptoms. When symptoms occur they may include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss. 

Fatigue, cramps, and belching gas also may occur. Some people have no symptoms. Most cases clear up on their own within a few weeks. Vomiting, blood in the stool, and fever are less common. Severe cases are treated with antibiotics. 

Is Giardiasis Contagious?

The answer is YES it is highly contagious! Giardiasis spreads through contaminated food or water or by person-to-person contact. It is most common in areas with poor sanitation and unsafe water, *cough beaver cough*. Always practice sanitary conditions, especially when you think Giadiaria may be present, and wash your hands with sanitizer.

Most cases of giardiasis contacted while hiking is actually a result of poor hygiene.

Giardia In Humans Left Untreated

If left untreated, the symptoms can persist for one-two months before gradually improving. A small number of people develop long-term (chronic) giardiasis, which causes persistent or repeated bouts of diarrhea that can last for up to two years.

Giardia Natural Treatments

  • Berberine, a compound found in a variety of herbs
  • Papaya Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Wormwood
  • Improving diet by eating more garlic, eating foods high in beta-carotene, probiotics to being back your gut bacteria, and avoiding things like coffee, sugar, and alcohol.

Also, if you think you might have Giardiasis then you should seek medical attention immediately.


* We usually don’t filter our water when drinking from cold springs or high alpine snowmelt. Please leave any questions or comments below. 

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