Are there any vaccines or medications available for preventing Giardia infection?
Traveling to new countries is an exciting opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture, explore an unfamiliar land, and come away with stories to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, there are certain risks to traveling abroad, one of which is contracting Giardia. Giardia, a common protozoan that causes gastrointestinal illness, is one of the most frequent causes of diarrheal illness in travelers. If you want to stay safe while traveling abroad, it’s important to educate yourself on the signs, symptoms, and prevention of Giardia.
What is Giardia?
Giardia is a parasitic protozoan that causes giardiasis, an infectious gastrointestinal illness. It’s the most common waterborne disease in the world and can be found in the intestines of humans, mammals, and birds. Giardia is spread through the ingestion of contaminated food or water, meaning it’s easily spread through contaminated streams and lakes as well as contaminated food and/or unclean hands.
Symptoms of Giardia
The symptoms of giardiasis typically begin within one to three weeks of infection and may include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, flatulence, fatigue, and loss of appetite. If left untreated, giardiasis can last for months or even years.
Prevention of Giardia
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent giardiasis while traveling. It’s important to always practice good hand hygiene, making sure to wash your hands with soap and water before eating and after using the restroom. Additionally, it’s important to always drink safe, bottled water and avoid consuming food and/or beverages from roadside vendors. It’s also a good idea to use bottled or boiled water when brushing your teeth or showering and making sure to avoid swimming or wading in stagnant water.
If you do experience symptoms of giardiasis while traveling, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. The most common treatment for giardiasis is antibiotics, and most cases can be treated and resolved in just a few days. However, it’s important to always let your doctor know if you’ve recently traveled abroad, as this will help them properly diagnose and treat the condition.
Traveling abroad can be a rewarding experience if you take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. By educating yourself on the signs, symptoms, and prevention of Giardia, you can better protect yourself and ensure that your travels are as safe and enjoyable as possible.