Giardia: Some surprising facts on "Beaver Fever"

Buck Nelson

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Recently I've run across some articles downplaying the chances of getting Giardia, some going so far as to claim that getting it from drinking water is a "myth." I did a bunch of research to find out how often people actually get Giardia. I could find two studies where people were tested for Giardia before and after an outdoor trip. In one, either 2 or 3 people out of 35 got Giardia. In the other, 6 out of 25 got it! So it's common. Good hygiene is probably at least as important for gastro-intestinal health, but Giardia can be a very big deal indeed, as many of us have unfortunately found out for ourselves.

Anyway, I posted a lot more information here because I want people to know that while treating water is optional, Giardia is no myth. Please check it out!
 

tccak71

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Took me awhile to catch on and start treating water. I only began treating water in '08 with iodine tablets and this year I'm moving up to the purifier/filter. I've floated creeks with beaver dams in them and drank the water; nary a problem. When my buddy started hunting with me in '06 he was privy to the whole filter/purifier equipment and began converting me to being a believer in treated water. I'll take your word for it that beaver fever sucks...

Tim
 

dkwarthog

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I will go toe to toe in a verbal spar with any so called expert that claims getting giardia from drinking water is a myth. I will not be nice about it. I've had it twice and it SUCKS. I was sick as a dog both times and even after long rounds of metronidazole, it took months to feel better...
 

akhunter02

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My hunting partner and I can both atest to getting Giardia here in Alaska. My buddy got it a couple years ago and I got it last year, both on moose hunts. Even with using a purifier you need to be careful, lessons learned the hard way
 

FamilyMan

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gestation period?

gestation period?

My hunting partner and I can both atest to getting Giardia here in Alaska. My buddy got it a couple years ago and I got it last year, both on moose hunts. Even with using a purifier you need to be careful, lessons learned the hard way

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.
 

Buck Nelson

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How long generally between drinking the bad water and seeing effects? Isn't it like 2 days or so?

I think the average is about 7-10 days, with 3-25 days or more being the outside parameters. So if something hits you less than three days after drinking from a questionable source, it's probably something else.
 

FamilyMan

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Steri pen?

Steri pen?

Does anyone use the steri pen (successfully). I don't like the idea of putting chemicals in my water, so I usually carry enough, or drink beer instead. :lol:
 

alottabs

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I`m NO expert on Giardia!!! That being said a few of my hunting partners over the last ten years or so have contracted this problem off and on using the same water and pretty much doing all the same things I did as we hunted the same place. Am I that rotten a person that these germs can`t affect me or are these guys *****s susceptible to everythng?????? I have drank downstream from many beaver dams in my life(not intentionally) but never had a problem. Are some people more apt to have a problem than others????
 

sayak

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I will go toe to toe in a verbal spar with any so called expert that claims getting giardia from drinking water is a myth. I will not be nice about it. I've had it twice and it SUCKS. I was sick as a dog both times and even after long rounds of metronidazole, it took months to feel better...

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.
 

Frostbitten

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I`m NO expert on Giardia!!! That being said a few of my hunting partners over the last ten years or so have contracted this problem off and on using the same water and pretty much doing all the same things I did as we hunted the same place. Am I that rotten a person that these germs can`t affect me or are these guys *****s susceptible to everythng?????? I have drank downstream from many beaver dams in my life(not intentionally) but never had a problem. Are some people more apt to have a problem than others????

Giardia is a parasite that can be passed on from any warm blooded critter, not just beavers. Any critter that poops in or near the water can pass it along. Additionally, just because water is moving, that doesn't make it safe...where is it moving from?
 

Buck Nelson

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Are some people more apt to have a problem than others????
No doubt about it. I think there are people more resistant to others in getting it in the first place. I know many other people have Giardia and suffer no ill affects whatsoever.
 

Amigo Will

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I think I have resistance to it as bug has not hit and I've drank from stream water from Viet Nam to Alaska. I do know folks that had it bad.
 

iofthetaiga

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Giardia (severity of symptoms) can affect different individuals differently. Time to onset can vary depending on the level of infection (number of cysts ingested). Some people can carry it without suffering severe or even any noticable symptoms. Generally though, it's one of those things that makes you feel like you're going to die, and then at some point makes you wish you would. Typically, you don't feel better without taking the nasty drugs, although it can run in cycles leaving some individuals to think they've gotten "over" it, only to realize a couple weeks or months later that it has "come back". At least two people have already made reference to Beaver, or Beaver dams, and that is another misnomer. Most any mammal or bird can carry and spread the Giardia cyst. Water temperature or flow rate are irrelevent. The cysts are long lived and can survive freezing for extended periods. You can become infected by a single drop of untreated water (for example on the outside of a canteen of treated water placed in a stream to cool). The reality is that there is not a single surface water source in North America that can be guarenteed to be free of Giardia (even melt water dripping directly off a glacier can contain cysts from fecal matter deposited on the glacier from mammals or birds). "Treating" water with chemicals or filtering can not be guarenteed to eliminate Giardia. Boiling however quickly kills Giardia and is the only guarenteed field method of purification. Cheers.:)
 

dkwarthog

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Does anyone use the steri pen (successfully). I don't like the idea of putting chemicals in my water, so I usually carry enough, or drink beer instead. :lol:

I bought a steripen to use on a caribou hunt. It failed right out of the box and I ended up having to boil water the whole trip. I exchanged for another one that seems to work, but my confidence is shaken a bit...
 

Chessie

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I`m NO expert on Giardia!!! That being said a few of my hunting partners over the last ten years or so have contracted this problem off and on using the same water and pretty much doing all the same things I did as we hunted the same place. Am I that rotten a person that these germs can`t affect me or are these guys *****s susceptible to everythng?????? I have drank downstream from many beaver dams in my life(not intentionally) but never had a problem. Are some people more apt to have a problem than others????

No, you aren't so rotten you're immune from Giardia. You've just been lucky.

I've hiked and hunted all over North America, including Alaska, drinking untreated water for 40 years. Like you, I've been unaffected while my hunting buddies suffered. Then, about 5 years ago while hunting elk in Montana drinking from a stream I'd drunk from during at least five other hunting trips I got sick as a dog. That time my hunting buddies did not get sick during the hunt. One did later. One didn't.

Like every other parasite there are lots of factors that affect whether we actually experience the severe symptoms of Giardia. But when I got it I was in perfect health, great physical condition, etc. No particular rhyme or reason I can tell why I got sick that particular time and didn't on many other occasions when I halfway expected to get it.
 

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