What is Giardiasis?
What is Giardiasis? Giardiasis is an infection of the small intestine caused by a parasite called Giardia lamblia. The disease is commonly found in low-lying areas or has poor water quality, especially in densely populated developing countries. Parasites that can only be seen with the help of this microscope are often found in lake water, swimming pools, wells, spas, to water reservoirs.
Not only that, giardiasis can also spread through contaminated food and contact between individuals. Although it may improve within weeks, people with giardiasis will usually have indigestion for some time, so preventing the disease is no less important step than treating it.
Causes of Giardiasis
Giardiasis is caused by a parasitic infection of Giardia lamblia that lives in the intestines of humans and animals, and also develops in water, soil, and food. Before expelled through the faeces (faecal), this common intestinal parasite will be protected by a hard shell that can last for months beyond the human intestines and in cold water.
When entering the human digestive tract, the shell called the cyst will dissolve and release this parasite in the intestine with the help of acid and pancreatic enzymes.
Giardiasis can occur when a person accidentally ingests a parasitic cyst through contaminated water. Both of these are the most common causes of giardiasis, because people who are infected with parasites and diarrhea may accidentally contaminate the water source. Not only found in ponds, lakes, rivers, wells, swimming pools or amusement parks, and spas. Giardia parasites can also contaminate soil and other aqueous surfaces through animal feces, waste water, and overflowing agricultural water.
Cases of transmission of giardiasis through food are more rare, because usually the parasite will die by the hot temperature when the food is cooked well. Giardiasis from contaminated food may be caused by negligence in cleaning hands before processing food, or food ingredients washed or irrigated using contaminated water.
Giardiasis can also occur through contact with others exposed to feces containing parasites or unprotected anal sex.
The following are people at high risk of contracting giardiasis, including:
- Children. Children have a greater risk of infection than parents because they have more frequent exposure to excrement, especially if they are still using diapers, are practicing in the toilets, or often spend time in daycares.
- Parents with children who still use diapers.
- A babysitter or officer at a daycare center.
- People who do not have access to safe drinking water, such as those living in low-lying areas or visiting the area.
- People who visit a common area of giardiasis.
Symptoms of Giardiasis
Giardiasis is characterized by bloating, stomach cramps, and nausea followed by a fatty diarrhea attack. Some patients with other giardiasis may not feel any symptoms, but still have parasites in the body that can spread through their feces.
Symptoms of giardiasis usually begin to appear since 1-3 weeks after the sufferer exposed to parasites. In addition to the symptoms mentioned, other symptoms that may be felt are fatigue, gas or farting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. These symptoms can last up to 2-6 weeks or longer. In some cases, symptoms of giardiasis recur after subside.
See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms with dehydration, or if you are or recently returned from this endemic area.
Diagnosis of Giardiasis
To obtain a certainty of diagnosis for the condition of giardiasis, the doctor may ask the patient to give a sample of dirt for several days to be examined in the laboratory. Patients will be given further instructions regarding the procedure of sampling the dirt. In addition to checking for the presence of parasites, stool samples can also be used to determine the effectiveness of the treatment given.
Having an updated medical record not only greatly helps the patient, but also the physician in monitoring the symptoms felt by the patient and any medications that affect his or her health condition.
The doctor may perform a physical examination of the patient’s abdominal area to check if there is a problematic area. Oral and skin examinations may also be performed to check for signs of dehydration.
In addition to the above procedure, a procedure called enteroscopy is also possible. This procedure is done by inserting a flexible tube into the throat to the small intestine to check the digestive tract and take tissue samples.
Treatment of Giardiasis
In some cases, the giardia infection is asymptomatic and the patient feels no need for treatment unless it has the potential to spread the disease to the surrounding environment.
Although the parasite that causes this infection will disappear from the body by itself within a few weeks, the person with giardiasis may still have indigestion for some time. Patients with giardiasis who are dehydrated due to this condition will be advised to drink lots of water so that the body does not lack fluid and can perform its function properly.
The drugs used for giardiasis do not all give the same result to the sufferer. However, symptoms of severe giardia infection will usually be treated with immediate administration of antiparasitic drugs, such as:
- Metronidazole – The most common antibiotic used for giardiasis has several potential side effects such as nausea, and a metallic taste in the mouth after taking this drug.
- Nitazoxanide – This liquid-shaped drug is safe to use by children. Some side effects that can be caused include nausea, abdominal bloating, yellow eyes, and urine water is bright yellow.
- Tinidazole – A drug that has the same work, yield, and side effects as metronidazole but with a larger dose because it is given only once.
- Paromomycin – A drug that can be used by pregnant women, because it has a lower risk of birth defects than other antibiotics. However, pregnant women should take this drug after childbirth or consult an obstetrician.
Always follow the doctor’s instructions and the information contained in the drug package before taking them. Discuss with a doctor if the patient is an infant, pregnant woman, or has mild symptoms. The doctor will adjust the treatment according to the body’s condition, health, and patient’s response to treatment.
As mentioned earlier, giardiasis can cause sufferers to feel the symptoms even though the parasite has left the body. If not handled properly, patients (especially infants and children) are also at risk for complications such as:
- Dehydration. This is triggered by severe diarrhea and can disrupt the body in performing its functions.
- Lactose intolerance, ie the inability of the body to digest the sugar content in milk well, and can continue even if the infection has disappeared.
- Physical and mental development is hampered by malnutrition triggered by chronic diarrhea from this condition.
Prevention of Giardiasis
Giardiasis can not be prevented by administering vaccines or drugs, but by taking actions that will prevent you or those around them becoming infected by Giardia parasites. Here are the steps that can be done:
- Get used to wash your hands or use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Wash and clean hands always before and after using the toilet or changing diapers, and before eating or processing food to avoid various types of infections.
- Make it a habit to filter or boil water before drinking it, especially from shallow wells, lakes, rivers, or other water sources. Boil water at 70 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes before using it.
- Routinely check the cleanliness of water if your water source comes from a well by taking samples of water for inspection in a laboratory that handles such tests.
- Consumption of bottled water that has been guaranteed cleanliness and feasibility to drink, process food, or to brush teeth.
- Do not consume ice cubes that have not known the cleanliness of the water.
- Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables even though they are peeled.
- Keep your mouth closed while in the pool, lake, or river to avoid the risk of swallowing water contaminated with parasites.
- Not having sex at risk, such as multiple partners, anal sex, or sex without using a contraceptive / safety.