8 Tips to Avoid Giardia and Cryptosporidium This Fall
Clean Water is Crucial for Health and SafetyPromoted by Berkey® Systems
Fall’s a great time to enjoy the great outdoors with friends and family. However, there might be two microscopic parasites in the water trying to crash your party: Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia. The good news is that a few basic precautions can reduce your chance of getting a dreadful tummy bug this fall.
What are Cryptosporidium and Giardia? Two Troublesome Parasites
Cryptosporidium and giardia are found all over the world, and are classified as protozoan parasites. This means they’re dependent on a host for shelter and food. In this case, it’s the intestinal tract of humans and animals. Cryptosporidium and giardia get expelled into the environment during bowel movements, where they can contaminate things and make people sick.
They Can Get by Without a Host
You might be thinking: if you get a parasite away from its host, it should quickly die, right? Unfortunately, the answer is “no”. In an apparent quest to make thousands of people miserable for a couple of weeks every year, these two bugs are protected by chlorine-resistant shells called oocysts and cysts (think: “force fields”) that make them difficult to eliminate, allowing them to survive outside their hosts for several months to a year.
These emboldened oocysts and cysts love water just like we do and can live in lakes, streams, swimming pools, whirlpool spas, and even public water supplies. Ingesting water containing them can cause the ailments known as cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis.
There were 15,223 reported cases of giardiasis and 8,008 cases of cryptosporidiosis in 2012 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of actual/unreported cases is likely much higher (how often do you go to the doctor every time your stomach seems a little off for a few days?)
They are Numerous, and Unfortunately, Potent
Now, this is where things get really gross: millions and millions of infectious oocysts and cysts can be shed in a single bowel movement, but swallowing just a small amount of water (as few as ten giardia cysts) is all it takes to infect a human. So, you can see why just one contagious person with diarrhea, a leaking diaper, or way-too-common bowel accident in the water can present such a hazard and ruin a great day for everyone.
Food, soil, doorknobs, faucets, toys, or anything that is commonly shared can also become contaminated. That’s why it’s so important to observe hygienic practices — especially while handling food at outdoor parties and picnics, sharing phones and cameras, or even after trips to the bathroom.
They Can Cause Unpleasant Symptoms
Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis resemble a bad case of the tummy flu or take you back to that time you accidentally ate those two-week-old leftovers out of the fridge:
● Foul-smelling or watery diarrhea
● Stomach cramps or pain
● Lack of appetite
● Weight loss
● Nausea and vomiting
● Slight fever
Luckily, symptoms usually resolve themselves on their own in a couple of weeks. Giardiasis can be treated with medicine, while cryptosporidium treatment usually focuses on relieving the symptoms.
Some people host the parasites but do not show any effects. Children and pregnant women are more likely to develop a more serious illness. Those at risk for severe illness after becoming infected include those with weakened immune systems.
If you suspect you have contracted cryptosporidiosis or giardiasis, it is always a good idea to seek the advice and care of your doctor.
Think the Swimming Pool is Safer? Maybe, Maybe Not
You might find it surprising that a third of treated waterborne disease outbreaks from 2000-2014 occurred in hotel pools or hot tubs.
8 Tips to Avoid Giardia and Cryptosporidium
To reduce your risk of becoming infected at your favorite campground, swimming hole, or backyard barbecue, experts at Ohio State University and the CDC suggest the following :
1. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before eating or drinking.
2. Outdoors, use the cleanest available water from treated sources such as municipal tap water whenever possible.
3. When prepping foods at the campsite, use a vegetable brush to scrub the outside of fruits and vegetables.
4. If you’re camping/hiking and safe water is not available, boil water for one minute before drinking.
5. Be aware of public boil orders and follow the recommendations.
6. Try not to swallow the water when swimming (this includes pools)
7. On long, lazy days at the pool or splash park, take kids on bathroom
breaks hourly, and change diapers in a diaper-changing area and away
from the water.
8. Don’t swim (or let your kids swim) if sick with diarrhea. If
cryptosporidium is the cause of the diarrhea, wait until 2 weeks after diarrhea has stopped to go swimming.
Go a Step Further: Use a Final Barrier System to Treat your Drinking Water
Since cryptosporidium and giardia resist chlorine, and boiling water is time and labor intensive (not to mention only supplying small amounts of water at a time), your best defense is to put a final barrier system in place to purify your drinking water on a daily basis.
Independent lab tests show that Berkey® gravity-fed purification systems equipped with Black Berkey® Purification Elements are extremely effective at removing cryptosporidium and giardia:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum removal or inactivation standard for cryptosporidium is 99 percent, or a 2-log reduction. Black Berkey® Purification Elements exceed lab detectable limits, removing cryptosporidium to greater than 99.997 percent (log 4.6). That is over twice the EPA standard, by log 2.6.
The EPA’s minimum removal or inactivation standard for giardia lamblia is 99.9 percent, a 3-log reduction. Black Berkey® Purification Elements exceed lab detectable limits,
having been tested to reduce giardia cysts by greater than 99.994 percent, or log 4.6. This also exceeds the EPA standard.
Berkey® Systems equipped with Black Berkey® Purification Elements remove up to 99.999 percent of viruses and 99.9999 percent of pathogenic bacteria, while also removing or dramatically reducing protozoa, trihalomethanes, inorganic minerals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, VOCs, petroleum products, perfluorinated chemicals, rust, silt, sediment, and even radiologicals.
We hope your next outdoor adventure is a great one! With just a little precaution, you’ll be able to create amazing memories with that will last a lifetime.