Giardia — not Saturday Night fever

So is it, a) An Italian chef, b) Manager of the NY Yankees, c) A flower in your mother’s garden, d) A Greek opera singer, e) A musical group, f) What Bemidji State hockey fans get, g) All of the above, or h) None of the above? It is definitely not your mother’s gardenia! The closest would be what Bemidji State fans get, as we will see, but the answer is None of the above.

Well then, what exactly is “giardia”? Giardia, scientifically know as Giardia intestinallis, is a microscopic parasite that causes a diarrhea illness known as giardiasis. Some common names are Beaver Fever, Montezuma’s Revenge, Forest Flu, Travelers D, or The Trots.

It is a global disease that is associated with contaminated water. The incidence is highest in developing countries and only infects 2 percent of adults and 6-8 percent of children in the United States.

People become infected by swallowing giardia cysts found in contaminated water or occasionally food. Acute symptoms include diarrhea, gas, stomach or abdominal cramps, greasy stools that tend to float, upset stomach or nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. In children, severe giardiasis may cause delayed physical and mental growth.

The disease is not fatal and in fact 2/3 of infected people show no symptoms. However, those that become infected will have explosive diarrhea that can last for months if untreated. Treatment is with doctor prescribed antibiotics.

This is an important topic locally, as trout season opens Saturday and many anglers may take a sip of water when they become thirsty while fishing. Don’t! We have beaver in practically all of our lakes, ponds, and streams and they are carriers. Hence the common name beaver fever, can lead to Saturday Night fever one might surmise.

Beaver are carriers, as are muskrats, and release cysts into the water. These cysts can live for months in cold water. Once inside the human body, stomach acids degrade the cysts, which releases the parasite. The parasite clings to the wall of the small intestine, feeds, produces cysts, which are swept into the fecal stream, and ultimately into waters. Prevention is simple, fishermen … don’t drink the water from lakes, ponds, or streams.

Hunters who use dogs should also heed this warning. Dogs can and do contract giardia by drinking water where beaver are found. Symptoms in canines are diarrhea, with a very foul odor and mucous, which is very frequent. Also, passing very foul gas, poor coat quality, and vomiting. Over time a dog will lose weight and become lethargic. A vet can prescribe medication to kill the parasite. It would also be wise to decontaminate the dogs house, bedding, etc. Dogs can transmit beaver fever to humans.

Many a traveler to Mexico has contracted giardiasis, which is also known as Montezuma’s Revenge. Substandard sewage control can and does lead to contaminated well water, so something as harmless as adding ice cubes to one’s beverage can lead to a ruined vacation. Hence, the old saying about when in Mexico “Don’t drink the water” is good advice.

Many a GI serving in a developing country has contracted giardiasis when on patrol with no water purification tablets. They describe a very, very unpleasant experience. So, anglers should never drink from a lake or stream, unless the water is purified.

A brief fishing forecast for Saturday’s trout season opener … our local streams are high, cold, and stained which does not make for good fishing. However, for the avid steelheader, there should be good numbers of steelies in many local rivers. Remember the old adage that trout fishing is best when the maple leaves are as big as a squirrels ear. Yours truly will be out fishing one of the local brook trout lakes.

Final word: Fishing is a verb and catching is another verb!

Go Fish!