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Giardia: Some surprising facts on "Beaver Fever"

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  • #31
    I've even gone so far as to strain swamp water through a multi-folded t-shirt one time but after I got the beave feve from a cold clear mountain creek that was tumbling over clean rocks I gave up my careless ways. I now carry a steri pen although the first one I tried failed and we had to spend a 10 day sheep trip drinking untreated silt slurries.

    The funny thing is that I had a wierd feeling the moment I drank the bad water although I didn't actually have symptoms until the next night. I ended up spending several sessions in an ice bath to chill my 103 degree temp and was delerious. That was even worse than the time we found a dead elk upstream from the spot we had been drinking from for about a week.
    If anything is going to happen, it'll happen out there.


    • #32
      Nice article Buck.

      It seems that the steripen should be affective according to the technology being employed. See link below. Granted that it does work at the power it should be on batteries. (They do have a new side winding model).

      UV is most common form to disinfect and sterilize. I've worked in a laboratory for the past five years and UV is always used to sterilize some nasty viruses in between testing.


      • #33
        hell i dont know...i dont think i've had it, but i've had some wierd bugs while out in the mountains...never specific to the symptoms i've heard about giardia, but nasty intestinal stuff its always came on quick, and never stayed for as long as giardia does reportedly... but i've been around lots of folks who've claimed to have it. when guiding my philosophy to my clients is this: Dont drink the water you see me drink unless i've treated it. meaning i'll drink alot of things and i feel my body is well adapted to the environment i keep it in for long periods of time...ten days on a hunt doenst acclimate a person to anything, hence the reason for treating all the water i give my clients (though its up to them, thats just the disclaimer i provide) i dont know the science behind it or anything, but i dont like drinking still water, and i avoid drinking directly around beavers...we treat the old fashion way with iodine and neatralizer tablets...seems to work. when thirsty and not in a survival situation where sickness could kill, i'll drink pretty much anything, tundra seeps to moose meadow puddles, if its wet it works. at the same time, i wouldnt advise this to anyone. interesting thread.


        • #34
          As a person that spent many of years drinking water from streams and rivers without treating it, I might be able to put some input here.

          I grew up drinking right from the river or stream and never had a problem, so did the rest of my family.

          I did notice tho that when I was gone for a time that when I returned after a extended stay to the city, a day after drinking the water I spent a couple of hours in the little log cabin,( outhouse). I also noticed that some of my hunting partners were having some of the same problems.

          I think it has a lot to do with what your body becomes accustomed to.

          In my forty+ years of drinking out of the rivers, I can say I've never had beaver fever, call me lucky I guess.

          I'm not discounting Sayaks post either, that there were a lot more cases reported sinces the 80s, there could be something to this.


          • #35
            Good article Buck, sorry to hear you got hit hard on the PCT.

            Our first year in the bush I got giardia real bad. As others have said, it is just plain awful, and that is putting it mildly. Thought it was from drinking Yukon water and so I've never drank Yukon water straight ever again. Continued to drink other river and creek water unfiltered, had a minor reoccurrence ten years later, went to see an internist friend, he ran a stool sample, came back positive.

            What was of interest was the discussion afterward. Turns out many of us who live remote or rural and drink from rivers and streams would test positive for giardia, but very few symptoms. He believed that people can develop a tolerance to it over time, but high cyst counts in waters could cause flare ups.

            I never researched it to find out if that is true or not. But certainly seems to be the case. We were always warned about and afraid of "Montezuma's Revenge" when we'd travel to Mexico as kids, don't drink the water etc, yet the locals did so with little problems. I have continued to drink from rivers and streams here in Alaska, but steer clear of standing water, not really had any more full-blown outbreaks.

            I really do think that when we are raised on treated water, filtered water, bottled water can tend to make us more susceptible to what was just commonplace in the past in how people drank water. Maybe we lost our tolerance, not sure.

            I think it's a good idea to carry a dose of flagyl in backcountry first aid kits, have had friends visit who ended up tiring of filtering and drank straight and got sick, and flagyl was the difference between them being able to function or not.

            And lack of proper hygiene can't be stressed enough too as likely thee primary thing that people will get sick from when camping, have to wonder if the studies were able to differentiate between waterborne sources or lack of washing hands etc.

            Off to check out the poll,
            Mark Richards


            • #36
              I got beaver fever a few years back, had it real bad, bout almost 2 months, now, oddly enough, I am immune to it. I can drink dang near any water i please, except like stagnant water form a swamp or something
              Eccleasties 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, There for the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.


              • #37
                How ever, I do get minor flair ups after drinking lake water VERY RARELY, in 5 years, it has only happened 3 or 4 times. and I only have the simptoms for about a day.
                Eccleasties 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, There for the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.


                • #38
                  Mark, that certainly makes a lot of sense. I think our immune systems bunker up to what it's exposed to. If you haven't been exposed to a lot of waterborne parasites then you are likely to have serious problems if you are. I've never known any of the village folks downriver to have ever complained of getting sick from their water sources.

                  Mebbe George Carlin was right.......

                  Now what ?


                  • #39
                    The most common myth about giardia is that it's spread by beavers, and therefore if you're upstream from any beaver colonies, or in the alpine, etc, the water is safe to drink. Wrong. One of the most common carrier's (and spreader's) of giardia is humans. I saw something a few years ago that came out of WSU that stated that 5-7% of people of European descent are carriers without being effected.


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by wags View Post
                      The most common myth about giardia is that it's spread by beavers, and therefore if you're upstream from any beaver colonies, or in the alpine, etc, the water is safe to drink. Wrong. One of the most common carrier's (and spreader's) of giardia is humans. I saw something a few years ago that came out of WSU that stated that 5-7% of people of European descent are carriers without being effected.
                      Infected humans can release 1 to 10 BILLION cysts a day. (1,000,000,000+) According to one source a SINGLE cyst has a 2% chance of infecting you. As the Giardia poll shows, though, that despite the numbers many people still do not get Giardia.

                      Other critters that carry Giardia include wolves, Dall sheep, and grizzly bears. That link showed 14% of beavers had Giardia, and 100% of grizzlies.


                      • #41
                        Having had beaver fever one whole summer, I fully agree with you on every word you wrote but one: giardia doesn't SUCK it blows (and blows, and blows). For the last 20 some years I have faithfully boiled every drop of water I have drunk out in the woods unless I collected it from rain or snow. I even melt/boil ice because I'm not sure those little dickens can't be frozen and still cause trouble.

                        Funny how it seems it was never a problem until the 80s.

                        I have to disagree with the last statement in the copied post. I drank from a crystal clear stream on the high portion of the road to Circle and cam down with giardia in 2-3 days. I got it diagnosed immediately as diarrhrea was the first symptom. This was in the mid 60's and was high up where there was no sign of beaver. I was told that ground squirrels can also carry it. I have treated my water ever since that time.


                        • #42
                          Good Thread, I gotta wonder how "Right" George Carlin really is,

                          I'm one of those who as a kid, did a lot of drinking out of the Rocky Mtn streams,
                          "as long as it's running swiftly" kind of thinking.
                          Never a problem,

                          Then living a few years, a ways up river on the Talkeetna, walking out there,
                          many times I screwed up the water plan and had to drink,...
                          right out of that Beauty, (In Summer )
                          Man, if you let it settle, you could spoon the silt out of the bottom of your cup, and Beavers (?) I imagine more than a few upriver,
                          Never a problem,...... (maybe the Churning Silt Pulverizes the bugs ?)

                          So with all the news media about it these days, I'm trying to be smarter,
                          Yet, last year, I'm on Raspberry Island, Packing Elk across the valley, run out of water ( I do try to get good stuff in my pack)
                          and, "There's a Swift Running Stream coming down the valley bottom." Irresistable,
                          drank a plenty, filled the bottle back up, "Hope I don't get Beaver Fever now"
                          I proceed up valley about 100yds, and spot a huge Beaver dam upstream from my position.......
                          Uh Oh, (??)

                          Nope not a problem, ..... I am trying to get smarter, sounds terrible, but I may be immune to some extent or have "One Heckuva a Well Practiced Immune System"

                          Maybe I'm even a carrier,.... got quite a bit of that European blood in my system

                          Big ps: certainly not trying to make fun of this thread, have seen others suffer terribly, it is very real, I'm just one of the fortunate ones I guess, hope it stays that way
                          but there is something to the immunity system strength idea, pretty sure of that.
                          Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !


                          • #43
                            For both my hunting partner and I it took almost two weeks for the first symptoms to sure thier ugly face.

                            Originally posted by FamilyMan View Post
                            How long generally between drinking the bad water and seeing effects? Isn't it like 2 days or so? I've drunk straight from fast moving water a day or before I'd be home, in the hope that at least if I got it I'd be home to deal with it.

                            Dealt with it once in the field while tent camping; that was memorable. After a couple days of it my stomach muscles were so weak I couldn't even sit up; had to turn on my side, then bend, then rise. Horrible.


                            • #44
                              I never worried about it too much for years. Our motto was "if it's moving, drink it". I did carry a filter and used it when it was convenient (camped for the night, etc). The first time my wife and I got giardia, we had filtered the water with my sweetwater. I came to find out later that I had let the filter freeze too many times while wet and apparently it developed cracks (?)....I'm ruined now, I wont even drink alpine spring water or out of the high rock piles...after seeing my beautiful wife writhing in pain leaking from both ends...

                              The second time was an "idiot's accident". I was lining my boat up river on the Big su after an outboard meltdown. It was hot and I was so thirsty I decided it was worth the risk to take a mouthful and spit it out. 5 minutes later I rounded a bend and saw a beaver swimming in front of a bank den...a bad sign, lol...7 days later I was in a bad way.

                              If you've never had it, you are either lucky, or tolerant. I believe that if you expose yourself to small #'s of it over time, you develop a tolerance to some degree. A large dose will still make you sick(er) though....also flagyl (metronidazole) only kills the "live" giardia, the cysts can live dormant in you for a long time and will "hatch" when you get sick or distressed in some way.

                              A very good thing to avoid, but if you been lucky for a number of years maybe youre just living right!

                              I'm hoping the steripen is the be all end all solution...although it apparently is ineffective on turbid water so silty river water is out...


                              • #45
                                The problem with the little buggers is you don't need to drink the water to get it. For instance, we hunt on a lake that is full of beaver. We are around the lake water constantly. Your hands come in contact with that water when you change your boots, or launch the canoe and paddle, etc. Over a 10 day timeframe you will find a way to put in a stick of gum, or pinch of copenhagen, blah blah blah, without washing your hands first.

                                You don't have to drink water to get it. Its part of hunting ~ the crappy part.
                                In 1492 Native Americans discovered Columbus lost at sea

                                If I come across as an arrogant, know-it-all jerk, it's because I am


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