Thursday, August 11, 2005

Water Water Everywhere

Nor any drop to drink

from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by samuel taylor coleridge

coleridge was speaking about the ocean. its salty water is not good for humans to drink. i'm referring to what we once described as "pristine mountain waters." in my youth i hiked and camped in the high sierras and in the coastal range north of santa cruz and south of san francisco. it was stunningly refreshing to crouch down, animal like, to put one's mouth to a mountain stream and taste the cool clear water, or to cup water in the hand and sip. a moment of respite and often reflection.

no mas. now there is giardia (giardia intestinalis or giardia lamblia). every state health dept and the national park service recommends that hikers somehow purify all surface water before drinking it. boiling or filtering are the two methods preferred. it is certainly depressing to think that all that snowmelt is now contaminated with an intestinal parasite.

the little feller in its Trophozoite stage. it exists also as cysts, which you, or perhaps any warm-blooded animal, ingest. the things pictured above "hatch' out of the cysts. they live in your intestines, reproduce, and make cysts which you excrete, possibly to be ingested by another animal, thus completing the organisms life cycle and this run-on sentence.

giardiasis is the name for what you get from giardia, in the way of illness. symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, other icky things, and general discomfort. not everyone (well duh) is affected the same.

here is some medical info. and more. flagyl is mentioned as a drug of treatment

or maybe it is ok to drink the water. perhaps the guardians of outdoor life have been overzealous. it seems that some threshhold of intake must be crossed before one is cursed. the link above says that as little as one cyst may be an effective dose. here's another opinion about drinking the water, which says

"How many cysts does it take to get the disease? Theoretically only one, but volunteer studies have shown that 10 or so are required to have a reasonable probability of contracting giardiasis: About one-third of persons ingesting 10 – 25 cysts get detectable cysts in their stools."

and yet another.

from wikipedia on giardia. "The trophozoite form of Giardia was first observed in 1681 by Anton van Leeuwenhoek in his own diarrheal stools."

so it's not new. and how subjective of him.

" Giardiasis has been most often associated with travel to such places as Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the former Soviet Union. However, Giardia has always been present in wilderness streams, in the water supplies of most cities around the world, and even in the municipal water of large U. S. cities. In fact, in the 1930s and 1940s, before regulated municipal water treatment plants, we were all ingesting Giardia all the time.... " (from here)

"The first documented case of a waterborne outbreak giardia in the United States was in 1970, in Aspen, Colorado; possibly carried there by travelers who had recently returned to Colorado from Leningrad, Russia. It is known that Leningrad's municipal water supply was contaminated with giardia at that time. From there, giardia swept the nation's remote waters at a phenomenal rate, being carried from state to state by humans and other mammals." from this.

cats get it. dogs get it. even birds get it.

1 comment:

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