This week’s blog focuses on another microscopic protozoan parasite known as Giardiasis, which is caused by Giardia. This disease has many similarities to Cryptosporidiosis in the fact that its infection causes severe intestinal discomfort. This disease is found around the world but is most common in rural areas with a lack of access to clean water.
So how do people contract Giardiasis? Giardiasis is the most common intestinal parasitic disease around the world and affects over 1 million people every year. It is commonly contracted by children, individuals with weakened immune systems, and people who travel to areas with poor sanitation. In the United States, infection rates range from 2-7%, which is fairly low. In comparison, rural African countries experience an infection rate of 25-40%. The difference in these rates is due to the lack of access to clean water in rural countries. The easiest way to contract this infection is through drinking water contaminated with Giardia, second to infection through contact. Transmission can continue through a community due to poor living conditions, poor environmental sanitation, and unsafe water supply.
What symptoms does an individual have once they’ve contracted Giardiasis? In less severe cases, symptoms include diarrhea and intestinal discomfort. This can easily be treated in developed countries by drinking plenty of fluids and taking the drug Nitazoxanide, a prescription medication to treat protozoal parasitic infections. However, in less developed countries, staying hydrated is one complication, but affording this medication is another. Once contracted, symptoms will begin to show up in around 1-2 weeks. They begin with intestinal discomfort, and if not overcome, symptoms can become more severe. The infection is usually most severe in children and individuals with weakened immune systems. Children can suffer from symptoms such as drastic decreases in weight, growth retardation, and even death.
In a study by three professors associated with Dilla University in Ethiopia, information was collected from the Loka Abaya town in Ethiopia. The study looked at 422 school-aged children. They looked at the conditions of the school as well as the access to clean water. This area was under study because Giardiasis was reported to be the most common parasitic disease in the area. The study tested stool samples to determine the prevalence of Giardia in these children. The results of the study concluded that 27.1% of the individuals tested had a prevalence of Giardia in their stool. The researchers found that almost 70% of these children were drinking from raw water sources that were untreated. The children affected were not aware of the infection which can be the cause of further spread. This research showed just how infectious this disease is and how it can continue to spread since individuals are unaware of their infection.
The most important way to prevent a disease like this from spreading is by practicing safe and clean water practices. In rural areas where it is difficult to maintain clean and sufficient water supplies, it is important to try to keep the water used for drinking and sanitation separate. It is also why the work Water to Thrive does is so important. With the help of our donors, support these communities, and teach them the importance of clean water maintenance. We not only provide them with clean water wells, but we also strive to educate the communities on safe water practices and how to maintain their wells. This promotes longevity of the well and a higher quality of life for the individuals.
Thank you again for reading my blog post for this week. I hope it was informational and also hope that you come back to read next week’s blog over the final microscopic protozoan parasite, Amebiasis.