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Of all the components of the human anatomy, by far the most delicate and susceptible to upset, is the digestive tract. Giardiasis is one such ailment that affects the digestive tract. The ailment is triggered by the presence and action of the microscopic Giardia lamblia parasite. It lodges within the delicate lining of the small intestine in humans. From here, it damages the capacity of the body to absorb and process fats and carbohydrates, that come from the digested food. It is also the main cause for diarrhea. It is easily transmitted and ingested via contaminated water. This parasite is able to survive the regular application of chlorine, which is used to purify water. It is also observed to be able to exist for more than two months in cold water

Observations
  • Clinical research reveals that it does not take more than 10 parasites present in a glass of drinking water, to cause this condition.
  • Young children with delicate immunity and tolerance to the parasites, are preponderant victims of the infection.
  • This observation has backed the fact that our bodies gradually develop a kind of immunity to the parasite as we grow older.
  • It is estimated that the number of affected people is higher in developing countries. The infection results in being the major cause of diarrhea observed in these countries.
  • Unfortunately, the infection does not manifest in more than two-thirds of the people whose intestines contain this parasite.
  • As and when the severity of the infection does manifest, it surfaces in the form of diarrhea, but without blood or mucus.
  • The diarrhea is observed to contain much of the unabsorbed fats, due to the infected body's inability to absorb the fats from the diet.
Symptoms

The commonly-observed symptoms are:
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Intestinal gas
  • A subsequently enlarged belly
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fever
The symptoms could be observed for a time frame of five to seven days or even longer, depending on the extent of the infection. In sever cases, especially in children, the child may lose a considerable amount of weight. Many times, after the acute symptoms settle in, the infection takes the form of a chronic phase, which is more prolonged.

Preventive Measures

There are certain measures that can be adopted at home itself, to eradicate the possible exposure to the infection.
  • Inculcate the habit of drinking water only from resources that are approved by the local health authorities as 'safe'.
  • In event of camping or hiking, you should ideally carry along your own drinking water.
  • The consumption of raw fruits and vegetables should take place only after washing them thoroughly.
  • It is essential to wash your hands well before cooking and serving, and ensure that the rest of the family does the same, prior to eating.
  • In event of someone in the family being treated for this infection, you should wash your hands often as you care for him or her.
  • It is very important to have a self-built water resource, like a well, certified by the authorities, on a regular basis.
Diagnosis

It has been observed that people and animals infected by the parasite can excrete the parasite in their stool, which in turn can contaminate public water supplies. Uncooked food ingredients rinsed in contaminated water are also potent carriers of the parasite. Doctors confirm the infection via the presence of the parasite in an infected person's stool. Several samples may be needed by the test centers before the parasites are detected. The diagnosis can also be done by observing the lining of the small intestine through endoscopy. The samples from inside the intestine are then sent to a laboratory.

Treatment

It is treated with prescription medicines that kill the parasites. The treatment takes anything between five and seven days. The prescribed medication should be taken as per the scheduled doses set by the doctor. It includes the intake of plenty of fluids, but not beverages containing caffeine. There are drugs that could be administered for the cramps.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.