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Outdoor fans, beware of giardia, aka beaver fever

Pam Graber
For the Nevada Appeal

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Q: What about parasites in local lakes and streams?

A: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the past two decades, the enemy parasites giardia (giardiasis), aka “beaver fever,” and crypto (cryptosporidiosis) have become recognized as two of the most common causes of waterborne disease in the United States. They are found in every region of the U.S. and throughout the world. Both are microscopic parasites that cause severe, lingering cases of diarrhea. Other symptoms can include cramps, nausea, weight loss and dehydration. A case of giardia can also involve gas, and crypto can include vomiting.

Both parasites are protected by an outer shell which enables them to survive outside the body for months. Giardia and crypto live in the intestines of infected humans or animals (cats, dogs, beavers, deer, etc.) and are passed in the feces. Millions of germs can be released in a single bowel movement. The parasites can also be found on surfaces or in soil, food or water that has been contaminated. Infection happens when you inadvertently swallow some of these parasites. It is not spread by contact with blood.

When you are around recreational water, which includes lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, springs and ponds, the chance of contracting giardia or crypto is real. If the water has been used by humans or animals, it could contain giardia or crypto. Here are some things to keep in mind when you are out camping, hiking, or otherwise recreating outdoors:

TIPS FOR PREVENTION:

Campers: Note that frequent hand washing is as important out in the wilderness as it is in town. It is false security to think that being away from crowds of people means there are no germs to catch. Use hand wipes or sanitizer often, especially before eating or handling food. This is particularly important if you have been in contact with the recreational water, or touched any item that has been in the water.

When gathering supplies for a camping trip, people often miscalculate the amount of water they should bring. They often figure drinking and cooking water, but forget water for washing. Bring soap and containers of water intended exclusively for hand washing.

Dog Owners: Dogs are notorious for sniffing their way to the most disgusting places, then rolling around on them. Many breeds love swimming and playing in the water. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling pets, especially after they have been outdoors.

Hikers: When heading out for a day on the trail, bring along your drinking water. Consuming creek water, even if it appears to be a fresh groundwater spring, is risky. (There are effective methods for purifying water – boiling, filtering, chemicals, but they are beyond the scope of this article.)

Beach Goers: Spending time on the shore of a lake usually means picnic food. It is so easy to get out of the water, sit down and immediately begin eating. Bring packages of hand wipes or sanitizer in your beach tote and keep them out on the towel right alongside the sunscreen, tanning lotions and picnic basket. Use them unfailingly before eating or handling food.

Prevention is wise but not fool-proof. If you suspect you are infected with giardia or crypto, see your health care provider. A series of stool samples can often provide a diagnosis. Effective prescription medications are available for both illnesses.

While ill, keeping yourself hydrated is important, as is taking extreme care with hygiene. You are contagious! Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food. Do not swim in recreational water (pools, hot tubs, lakes, rivers, oceans, etc.) for at least 2 weeks after the diarrhea stops. Avoid fecal exposure during sexual activity.

There are many opportunities for young children to be exposed to parasites, especially children in child care settings. Learn more about giardia and crypto by using the alphabetical search at http://www.cdc.gov.

PARENTS! Don’t wait till the last minute to get your children’s immunizations. Schools require proof of vaccinations. Immunizations are offered at Carson City Health and Human Services every Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; closed for lunch.

WHOOPING COUGH

EPIDEMIC IN

CALIFORNIA

In neighboring California, confirmed cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, is now four times that of last year. The five infants who died from it caught it from adults. Infants are not adequately protected by their whooping cough immunizations until they are 6 months old. For this reason, local health officials encourage Tdap boosters for any adult that is in close contact with an infant, as well as regular immunizations for infants and children. Whooping cough boosters for adults and vaccine for infants is available at Carson City Health and Human Services.

On the Web

Check out the Carson City Health and Human Services’ new website at http://www.gethealthycarsoncity.org.

Take a quick survey about smoke-free parks and events. The survey is available at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/26GV68W or through our Facebook page.

Carson City Health and Human Services

Clinic Hours: Monday-Wednesday and Friday

9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by appointment

900 East Long Street, Carson City

775-887-2195

Thursday is

Immunization Day

8:30-11:30 a.m.; 1-4:30 p.m.

No appointment needed

• Pam Graber is the public information officer for Carson City Health and Human Services. She can be reached at pgraber@ci.carson-city.nv.us